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1st  Edition: 1959  (Saka  1881) 
Fifth  Reprint:  2014  (Saka  1936) 

©  Publications  Division 

ISBN  978-81-230-1917-8 

Price  :  ?  205.00 

Published  by  the  Additional  Director  General,  Publications  Division, 
Ministry  of  Information  and  Broadcasting,  Government  of  India, 
Soochna  Bhawan,  C.G.O.  Complex,  Lodhi  Road,  New  Delhi  -  110  003. 


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The  objective  of  this  series  is  to  record,  for  the  present 
and  future  generations,  the  story  of  the  struggles  and  achievements 
of  the  eminent  sons  and  daughters  of  India  who  have  been 
instrumental  in  our  national  renaissance  and  attainment  of 
independence.  Except  in  a  few  cases,  such  authoritative 
biographies  have  not  been  available. 

The  Series  is  planned  as  handy  volumes  written  by  knowledgeable 
people  giving  a  brief  account,  in  simple  words,  of  the  lifetime 
and  activities  of  these  eminent  leaders.  They  are  not  intended 
either  to  be  comprehensive  studies  or  to  replace  the  more 
elaborate  writings. 





When  the  invitation  from  the  Publications  Division  of  the 
Government  of  India  came  to  me  to  write  the  biography  of  Mr. 
K.  M.  Munshi  for  its  Builders  of  Modem  India  Series,  I  readily 
accepted  it.  I  knew  Mr.  Munshi  well,  especially  during  the  last 
decade  of  his  life.  His  health  was  not  always  good,  but  the 
brilliance  of  his  mind  remained  undimmed.  He  could  discuss  any 
difficult  subject  with  ease  and  authority.  I  often  asked  him 
disconcerting  questions  on  the  “ifs”  of  history. 

For  instance,  what  would  have  been  the  fate  and  future 
of  India  if  his  campaign  for  Akhand  Hindustan  or  undivided 
India  had  succeeded?  In  that  event,  how  would  the  free 
institutions  in  the  country  have  fared?  Again,  would  parliamentary 
democracy  have  struck  deeper  roots  in  the  Indian  soil  if  there 
had  been  a  stable  division  of  political  power  between  two  more 
or  less  evenly  matched  parties,  as  in  Britain,  for  example? 
Drawing  liberally  from  his  vast  knowledge  and  experience,  Mr. 
Munshi  unhesitatingly  gave  the  most  comprehensive  and 
convincing  answers.  He  often  engaged  me  in  a  detailed 
discussion  on  the  powers  of  the  President  of  the  Indian  Union 
and  of  the  Governors  of  States. 

On  all  such  occasions,  Mrs.  Lilavati  Munshi  used  to  be 
present.  She  did  not  choose  to  participate  actively  in  our 
discussions  but  her  occasional  observation,  apt  and  brilliant, 
gave  a  new  zest  to  our  talk.  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Munshi  were  a 
remarkable  couple  and  it  was  both  a  pleasure  and  a  privilege  to 
be  in  their  cultured  company. 

I  am  indebted  to  the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan  for  placing 
at  my  disposal  all  the  necessary  material  for  writing  this 
biography.  Mr.  S.Ramakrishan,  its  Executive  Secretary,  who 
was  close  to  Mr.  Munshi,  readily  enlightened  me  on  some  of  the 
points  which  needed  elucidation.  Mr.  S.C.Tolat,  who  also  knew 
the  Munshis  well,  was  equally  obliging.  Mr.  C.K.Venkataraman 
showed  exemplary  patience  and  promptitude  in  giving  me 
whatever  literature  I  wanted.  I  am  indebted  to  my  daughter, 
Mrs.  Pramila  S.Kulkami,  for  preparing  the  index  to  this  book. 
As  in  the  case  of  my  other  books,  Mr.  V.  A.E.  Rasquinha  was 
most  helpful  to  me  in  the  preparation  of  this  volume. 




Early  Years 



State  of  the  Country 



The  Lawyer 



Hie  Exemplars 



Swaraj  Without  Substance 



The  Communal  Canker 



The  War 



The  Partition: 

(i)  Gandhi-Jinnah  Talks 


(ii)  The  Holocaust 



Princely  India 






The  Constitution 



Minister  and  Governor 



Education  and  National  Language 



Man  of  Letters 



The  Bhavan 






The  Man 



■  : 

•  - 


Early  Years 

Irujarati  and  an  eminent  Indian.  He  was  endowed  with  a 
wideranging  and  versatile  mind  and  was  undoubtedly  an 
outstanding  builder  of  modem  India.  He  admired  the  antiquity 
and  amplitude  of  his  country’s  heritage  and  was  proud  of  the 
fact  that  it  had  contributed  to  the  enrichment  of  the  civilization 
of  one-fourth  of  the  human  race.  He  could  see  the  indelible 
imprints  of  this  contribution  in  large  parts  of  South-East  Asia. 
Munshi  was,  however,  a  realist.  He  saw  the  futility  of  seeking 
to  revive  an  irretrievable  past  but  was  convinced  that  India’s 
future  greatness  should  be  founded  on  her  historic  achievements. 
He  accordingly  built  a  number  of  cultural  and  educational 
institutions,  of  which  the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan  is  the  greatest 
monument  to  his  vision  and  veneration  for  all  that  is  great  and 
noble  in  his  motherland. 

In  dynamism  and  restlessness,  Munshi  resembled 
Bismarck,  the  great  German  statesman  of  the  nineteenth  century. 
It  was  said  of  Bismarck  that  he  was  by  temperament  one  whom 
life  consumed  but  rest  killed.  Munshi  was  endowed  with  a 
similar  temperament.  He  was  like  the  busy  smith  with  many 
irons  in  the  fire.  He  was  a  lawyer  and  even  in  an  era  of  legal 
giants  he  rose  to  the  pinnacle  in  his  profession.  He  would  have 
won  many  more  glittering  prizes  had  he  given  his  undivided 
attention  to  his  legal  practice,  but  his  abounding  and  creative 
energies  drove  him  relentlessly  into  ever-widening  fields  of 


K.  M.  Munshi 

activity.  He  enthusiastically  joined  the  great  movement  for 
national  liberation  by  interrupting  a  successful  legal  career  and 
spuming  the  sweets  and  delights  of  an  affluent  life.  His  sacrifice 
was  remarkable  since  in  his  earlier  years  he  had  felt  the  pangs 
of  penury. 

Munshi  was,  however,  much  more  than  a  lawyer  and 
a  patriot.  He  was  a  distinguished  man  of  letters  whose  contribution 
to  Gujarati  literature  is  as  immense  as  it  is  durable.  He  wrote  in 
an  endless  stream  novels,  stories,  romances,  historical  and 
puranic  dramas,  biographies  and  critical  miscellaneous  essays, 
including  addresses.  And  yet  this  colossus  of  Gujarati  literature 
began  his  literary  career  by  writing  in  English.  He  felt  for 
sometime  in  his  early  years  that  he  would  never  be  able  to  master 
the  elusive  foreign  tongue,  but  he  soon  realised  that  a  truly 
educated  man  had  no  vernacular.  He  accordingly  set  out  to  gain 
proficiency  in  that  language  and  succeeded  admirably  in  his 
attempt.  His  numerous  books  in  English  fully  bear  this  out.  In  fact, 
he  could  set  off  the  most  trifling  common  places  in  the  most 
superb  language. 

Munshi  was  also  a  scholar  who  had  studied  with  deep 
diligence  the  abundant  literature  of  both  his  motherland  and  the 
West.  He  loved  Sanskrit,  knowing  that  it  held  the  key  to  the 
immense  storehouse  of  Indian  knowledge  and  enlightenment.  As 
a  student  of  literature,  he  was  naturally  drawn  towards  Indian 
art  and  architecture  which  at  one  time  had  become  the  envy  of 
mankind.  Munshi  was  an  idealist  and  a  thinker  but  he  spumed 
the  temptation  of  immuring  himself  in  the  ivory  tower.  He  was 
a  humanitarian  and  a  reformer.  Both  as  a  creative  writer  and  as 
a  journalist,  he  poured  out  a  steady  stream  of  literature  pleading 
for  the  liberation  of  the  Indian  society  from  the  shackles  of  a 
dead  past.  He  was  also  an  able  administrator  and  proved  his 
mettle  as  a  minister  both  at  the  State  and  the  national  level.  He 

Early  Years 


thus  played  numerous  roles  and  yet  he  was  always  unhurried, 
relaxed  and  easily  accessible.  His  wife,  Mrs.  Lilavati  Munshi, 
was  a  tower  of  strength  to  him.  She  was  indeed  a  remarkable 
lady  whose  considerable  literary  talents  and  sacrifice  in  the 
cause  of  the  nation  have  entitled  her  to  an  honoured  place 
among  the  eminent  women  of  India. 

Munshi  was  born  on  December  30,  1887  at  Broach,  a 
town  in  Gujarat  State  on  the  Gulf  of  Cambay.  A  port  town,  it 
was  an  important  Buddhist  centre  in  the  seventh  century.  Till  the 
fourteenth  century  it  was  the  chief  port  of  Western  India. 
Munshi  claimed  his  lineage  from  an  ancient  Brahmin  family 
which  displayed  a  remarkable  capacity  for  survival  and  for 
gaining  reasonable  affluence  through  judicious  adaptability.  In 
addition  to  its  resilience,  it  had  learnt  the  value  of  strictly 
adhering  to  the  traditions  of  learning  and  enlightenment.  Since 
the  establishment  of  the  Sultanate  of  Delhi  in  the  thirteenth 
century,  there  was  a  steady  expansion  of  Muslim  rule  in  large 
parts  of  the  Indian  sub-continent.  Like  the  rest  of  their 
countrymen,  the  Munshis  submitted  to  the  inevitable  with  a 
sense  of  realism.  One  of  them  was  stated  to  have  been  in  the 
service  of  Sultan  Muhammad  Bin  Tughlug,  who  ascended  the 
throne  of  Delhi  in  1325,  The  Sultan  has  gone  down  in  history  as 
a  parricide  and  as  an  eccentric  of  rare  vintage.  He  was 
undoubtedly  a  monster  of  cruelty  but  he  was  also  a  learned  man 
with  a  high  sense  of  justice.  He  cheerfully  accepted  punishment 
for  wronging  an  eminent  Hindu  after  he  was  found  guilty  by  a 
fearless  Kazi. 

The  Munshis  were,  however,  not  alone  in  moving  with  the 
times.  While  Muslim  rule  certainly  established  Islam  as  the 
religion  of  the  rulers,  it  did  not  bring  about  any  revolutionary 
change  in  the  administrative  and  economic  life  of  the  country. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

The  Hindu  intellectual  classes  such  as  the  Kayasthas,  the 
Khatris,  the  Pandits  of  Kashmir,  the  Amils  of  Sind  and  the 
Brahmins  of  Maharashtra  contributed  substantially  to  the  ranks 
of  the  bureaucracy,  thus  helping  to  sustain  the  administrative 
standards.  They  quickly  gained  mastery  over  the  language  of  the 
rulers,  Persian,  in  order  to  qualify  for  superior  positions  in  the 
government.  There  was  also  a  sizable  representation  of  Hindus 
in  the  armed  services,  with  the  Rajputs  becoming  the  swordarm 
of  the  Moghul  Empir  and  the  Marathas  playing  a  similar  role  in 
the  Deccan. 

The  Munshi  family  history  reveals  that  many  of  its 
members  had  attained  great  proficiency  in  Persian.  One  of 
them,  Nandanlal,  who  flourished  in  the  eighteenth  century, 
became  a  noted  scholar  and  poet  in  that  language.The  Moghul 
Emperor  was  mightily  pleased  with  his  literary  attainments  and 
granted  him  a  jagir.  His  son,  Harivallabh,  rose  in  the  service  of 
the  Nawab  of  Broach.  Munshi’s  own  father,  Maneklal,  served 
as  Dewan  for  sometime  in  the  Muslim-governed  principality  of 
Sachin  in  Saurashtra.  Loyalty  to  the  Government,  irrespective  of 
the  religious  beliefs  of  the  rulers,  had  become  an  inviolable 
custom  in  the  Munshi  family.  Maneklal,  who  served  the  British 
Raj  and  rose  to  become  a  Deputy  Collector,  did  not  like  his  son 
attending  the  annual  sessions  of  the  Indian  National  Congress. 

From  the  days  of  Munshi’s  great  grandfather,  Karsondas, 
there  was  a  marked  change  in  the  fortunes  of  the  family. 
Thenceforward  it  became  a  family  of  lawyers,  with  law  running 
in  the  veins  of  its  members.  Karsondas  became  a  distinguished 
lawyer  and  was  for  sometime  Government  pleader  in  Surat  and 
Thana.  His  son,  Narbheram,  Munshi's  grandfather,  pursued  his 
parent’s  profession  and  was  highly  esteemed  for  his  abilities.  A 
British  judge  wrote  thus  about  him:  “A  very  clever  and  talented 
man.  Bears  a  high  character  amongst  the  inhabitants  of  the  city” 

Early  Years 


of  Broach.  Narbheram  was  then  serving  as  Reader  in  the 
Broach  Court. 

Munshi’s  father,  Maneklal,  deviated  from  the  hereditary 
path,  but  his  elder  brother,  Parshuram,  remained  faithful  to  the 
family  tradition.  Munshi  has  presented  a  highly  amusing  account 
of  the  manner  in  which  his  uncle  was  able  to  secure  the  much- 
prized  sanad  of  a  High  Court  pleader.  Parshuram  journeyed  to 
Bombay  and  put  up  in  the  city  with  a  fellow- Gujarati  who 
happened  to  be  the  Government  pleader  in  the  High  Court.  The 
pleader  took  the  applicant  to  the  Chief  Justice  for  interview  to 
test  his  knowledge  of  law. 

The  Chief  Justice  asked  the  pleader  in  English  to  question 
the  candidate  on  the  law  of  mortgage  and  what  was  meant  by 
the  term  “equity  of  redemption”.  While  Parshuram  did  not  know 
English,  the  Chief  Justice  did  not  understand  a  word  of  Gujarati. 
Far  from  testing  the  candidate,  the  wily  pleader  addressed  him 
thus:  “Parshuram  Munshi,  are  you  married?”  It  was  not  a 
difficult  question  to  answer!  The  second  question  was:  “How 
many  persons  were  invited  on  the  occasion  of  your  marriage 
feast  and  what  were  the  dishes  served?”  This  was  also  not  a 
baffling  question.  The  interview  was  successful  and  the  candidate 
got  the  coveted  sanad.  The  Chief  Justice  was  told:  “The 
Munshis  suck  in  law  with  their  mothers’  milk”. 

As  was  the  custom  of  those  days,  Munshi  was  married 
when  he  was  still  a  teenager.  At  the  time  of  his  wedding  he  was 
barely  thirteen  years  old,  his  bride,  Atilakshmi,  being  nine  years 
of  age.  When  his  father,  Maneklal,  married  he  was  only  nine 
years  old;  his  mother,  Tapibehn,  was  just  six!  Atilakshmi  grew 
up  into  a  beautiful  woman  and  served  her  husband  with  the 
traditional  devotion  of  a  Hindu  wife.  She  was,  however,  not 
educated  so  that,  as  Munshi  rose  to  fame  and  affluence  and 
widened  the  area  of  his  activities,  he  found  in  her  companionship 


K.  M.  Munshi 

an  intellectual  void  which  deeply  grieved  him.  He  was,  however, 
careful  not  to  wound  her  feelings.  He  yearned  for  a  partner  in 
life  who  could  appreciate  the  keenness  of  his  mind,  understand 
and  applaud  his  literary  creations,  and  hold  her  own  in  an 
intellectual  society. 

During  his  rise  in  Bombay  he  had  met  Lilavati  who  had 
by  then  become  a  celebrity  as  an  accomplished  writer  in 
Gujarati.  They  would  have  made  an  ideal  man  and  wife  but  both 
were  married!  When  still  a  girl,  she  had  been  married  to  a 
wealthy  but  elderly  gentleman,  Lalbhai  Seth.  Like  Munshi,  she 
too  was  unhappy.  The  stars  in  their  courses  had,  however, 
decided  that  Kanhaiyalal  and  Lilavati  should  be  united  in  holy 
wedlock.  While  Atilakshmi  died  in  1924,  Lalbhai  left  this  world 
in  the  following  year.  With  the  consent  and  blessing  of  his 
mother,  Tapibehn,  Munshi  married  Lilavati  in  1926.  The  two 
opened  a  new  chapter  in  their  lives,  inspiring  each  other  to 
make  new  conquests  in  the  vast  kingdom  of  letters. 

Munshi,  however,  found  this  domestic  happiness  long  after 
he  had  completed  his  student  days  and  had  begun  to  make  his  mark 
in  the  legal  profession  in  Bombay.  The  intervening  period  was  full  of 
ups  and  downs  in  his  life.  His  father  was  an  employee  in  the 
Revenue  Department  of  the  Government  of  Bombay  on  a  small 
salary.  Without  the  necessary  educational  qualifications  he  could 
not  expect  to  make  a  successful  career  as  an  official.  In  1 900,  he 
was  posted  to  Broach  as  Deputy  Collector.  Munshi  was  sent 
to  the  local  High  School  from  where  he  matriculated.  It  was  a  great 
event  in  the  family.  B  oth  then  and  long  after  till  national  independence, 
it  was  the  ambition  of  most  English-educated  middle  class  families 
to  make  their  sons  members  of  the  elite  Indian  Civil  Service. 
Maneklal  shared  this  dream  but  it  came  to  nothing. 

“Kami”,  as  Munshi  was  affectionately  called,  could  not 
even  go  to  Bombay,  acclaimed  as  the  urbs  prima  in  Indis  for 

Early  Years 


higher  education.  Instead  he  was  sent  to  the  Baroda  College  to 
take  his  degree  from  there.  Baroda  was  then  the  capital  of  a 
large  princely  state,  ruled  by  Sayajirao  Gaekwad,  an  enlightened 
man  who  was  determined  to  make  it  an  ideally-governed 
principality.  He  was  a  man  of  vision  who  never  allowed 
regional,  linguistic  or  religious  considerations  to  hamper  the 
attraction  of  talent  in  his  service.  He  recruited  able  men  from 
different  parts  of  the  country  so  that  the  Baroda  bureaucracy 
consisted  of  Gujaratis,  Maharashtrians,  South  Indians  and 
Bengalis.  Notable  among  such  employees  was  Aurobindo 
Ghosh  who  later  won  international  renown  as  a  revolutionary, 
scholar  and  saint.  Young  Munshi  came  under  his  spell  during  his 
college  days. 

Munshi  was  a  voracious  reader  and  studied  with  deep 
interest  the  European  literature  of  revolt,  extolling  liberty  and 
freedom,  proclaiming  the  sanctity  of  human  personality,  and 
openly  preaching  rebellion  against  tyranny  and  oppression. 
Strangely  enough,  he  admired  Napoleon,  a  warrior  statesman  of 
unsurpassed  brilliance.  Napoleon  could  not,  however,  be 
regarded  as  an  exemplar  of  those  who  believed  in  popular 
government.  Munshi’ s  admiration  for  Shivaji,  founder  of  the 
Maratha  Empire,  was  well-founded.  The  great  Maratha  could 
humble  and  send  to  its  doom  the  mighty  Moghul  Empire  with 
almost  no  resources  of  his  own.  Munshi  was  also  strongly 
drawn  towards  Aurobindo  Ghosh  whom  he  regarded  as  his 
beau  ideal  in  his  student  days  and  in  later  years  as  a  luminous 
star  in  the  spiritual  and  philosophical  firmament  of  India. 
Aurobindo,  who  had  spent  over  fourteen  years  abroad, 
returned  to  India  in  1893  and  accepted  service  in  the  Baroda 
State  which  he  served  till  1907.  Curiously  enough,  he  began  his 
official  career  in  the  Settlement  Department  and  was  eventually 
transferred  to  the  Baroda  College  to  give  lessons  in  French. 
Soon  after,  he  became  Professor  of  English.  At  the  same  time, 


K.  M.  Munshi 

he  helped  Maharaja  Sayajirao  in  writing  letters,  in  drafting 
speeches  and  in  drawing  up  specialised  documents  for 
His  Highness. 

A  patriotic  and  sensitive  young  man  like  Munshi  could  not 
remain  indifferent  to  the  happenings  in  the  country.  After  the 
brutal  suppression  of  the  revolt  of  1857,  Whitehall  and  its 
subordinates  in  India  had  begun  to  govern  the  country  as  if  it 
had  been  conquered  for  the  second  time.  Determined  to  make 
India  England’s  permanent  colony,  they  rigorously  excluded 
Indians  from  taking  even  a  modest  share  in  the  government  of 
their  own  country.  Deliberately  ignoring  India’s  great  past,  they 
maintained  that  the  people  of  this  country  were  congenitally 
incapable  of  managing  their  own  affairs.  Lokmanya  Bal 
Gangadhar  Tilak  was  not  a  believer  in  the  policy  of  prayer  and 
petition  for  gaining  the  national  goal,  but  by  no  stretch  of 
imagination  could  he  be  called  an  advocate  of  a  bloody 
revolution.  And  yet  he  was  stigmatised  as  a  seditionist,  an 
anarchist  and  a  revolutionary.  Among  the  non-revolutionary 
patriots  of  his  times,  Tilak  was  undoubtedly  the 
most  persecuted  leader.  In  Bengal,  the  partition  decision 
provided  the  spark  for  a  conflagration  that  engulfed  almost  the 
entire  country. 

Lord  Curzon,  who  hatched  the  plan  for  disrupting  Indian 
nationalism  in  collusion  with  a  cabal  of  like-minded  imperialists, 
had  gained  the  conviction  that  a  united  Bengal  would  become 
an  irresistible  power,  but  divided  it  would  “pull  several  different 
ways”.  He  held  the  Indian  Vice-royalty  from  1899  to  1905  and 
wrote  within  a  year  of  his  rule  that  one  of  his  cherished 
ambitions  was  to  send  the  great  national  organisation,  the 
Congress,  to  its  doom.  Curzon  was  undoubtedly  one  of  the 
greatest  British  proconsuls  in  this  country.  He  was  brilliant  and 
industrious  and  worked  for  eleven  hours  a  day.  He  was, 

Early  Years 


however,  an  uninhibited  imperialist  and  dismissed  Indian  political 
aspirations  as  Utopian.  His  plea  that  the  province  of  Bengal  had 
grown  unwieldy,  thereby  impairing  the  administrative  efficiency 
in  the  outlying  districts,  was  not  wholly  invalid.  But  this  was  only 
part  of  the  reason  and  not  the  whole  of  it,  for  the  object  of 
administrative  efficiency  could  have  been  gained  by  separating 
the  non-Bengali  areas  from  that  province.  The  real  intention  was 
to  stem  the  tide  of  nationalism.  The  bureaucracy  apprehended 
danger  to  the  durability  of  the  Raj  from  the  two  most  politically 
advanced  groups,  the  Marathi-speaking  Brahmins  in  the  Deccan 
and  the  Bengali  intellectual  classes,  the  bhadralok.  The  partition 
of  Bengal  was  clearly  intended  to  drive  a  wedge  between  the 
Hindu  and  Muslim  communities  there.  By  making  a  liberal  use 
of  the  immense  mass  of  patronage  at  their  command  the 
Viceroy  and  his  assistants  succeeded  in  drawing  the  Muslim 
landed  and  educated  classes  into  the  government  camp. 
Whitehall  was  deliberately  kept  in  the  dark  about  the  real  object 
of  the  project.  “Even  the  Secretary  of  State  for  India”,  writes 
R.RCronin,  “was  not  privy  to  the  innermost  thoughts  of  the 
Viceroy  and  his  key  officials”.* 

The  new  province  of  East  Bengal  and  Assam  came  into 
existence  in  October  1905,  unleashing  a  convulsive  movement 
not  only  in  the  Bengali-speaking  areas  but  in  most  parts  of  the 
country.  The  Swadeshi  movement  aimed  at  buying  only  India- 
made  goods,  received  a  tremendous  fillip.  Great  political 
leaders  unanimously  condemned  the  Government’s  move  to 
sabotage  Indian  nationalism.  While  the  veteran  patriot  Dadabhai 
Naoroji,  characterised  the  partition  as  a  “blunder”,  Gopal 

* British  Policy  and  Administration  in  Bengal,  1905-1912:  Partition 
and  the  New  Province  of  Eastern  Bengal  and  Assam  by  Richard  Paul 
Cronin,  Firma  KLM  Private  Ltd.,  1977,  p.  1. 

2-473  M.  of  I&B/ND/8 1 . 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Krishna  Gokhale,  that  exemplar  of  moderation  and  mildness, 
declared  with  unaccustomed  heat  that  the  Government’s  action 
showed  “its  utter  contempt  for  public  opinion,  its  arrogant 
pretensions  to  superior  wisdom,  its  reckless  disregard  of  the 
most  cherished  feelings  of  the  people”.  There  was  countrywide 
determination  to  unsettle  what  was  claimed  to  be  a  settled  fact. 
The  annulment  of  the  partition  in  1911  marked  the  triumph  of 
Indian  nationalism,  making  the  event  even  more  significant  than 
the  abortive  uprising  of  1857.  It  was  impossible  for  young 
nationalists  like  Munshi  not  to  be  deeply  stirred  by  such  epoch- 
making  developments. 

Munshi  was,  however,  not  directly  drawn  into  the  vortex 
of  the  anti-partition  movement  because  he  was  in  a  princely 
state  at  the  time  where  agitation  against  the  British  Raj  were  not 
encouraged.  This  was  so  in  all  the  protected  principalities  in  the 
country.  When  he  was  still  studying  for  junior  B.A.  in  1905, 
Munshi  took  a  first-class  in  the  first  year  LL.B.  examination, 
winning  the  Ambalal  Sakerlal  prize.  He  passed  the  B.A.  degree 
examination  in  the  following  year,  scoring  6o  per  cent  marks  in 
English,  which  got  him  the  Elliot  Memorial  prize.  Four  years 
later,  in  1910,  he  qualified  for  the  legal  profession  by  passing  the 
final  LL.B.  examination.  He  decided  to  settle  down  in  Bombay 
to  make  his  fortune  in  that  great  metropolis.  It  would  be 
appropriate  to  discuss  in  the  next  chapter  the  political  situation 
in  the  country  before  proceeding  to  trace  Munshi ’s  career 
as  a  lawyer. 


State  of  the  Country 

MUNSHI  WAS  ENDOWED  with  extraordinary  intelligence 
and  imagination,  but  in  politics  he  was  essentially  the 
product  of  his  times.  He  shared  the  widely  prevalent 
contemporary  feeling  that  India’s  freedom  from  foreign  rule 
should  be  sought  by  a  strict  adherence  to  the  doctrine  of 
gradualness.  His  knowledge  of  history  convinced  him  about  the 
positive  aspects  of  the  British  Raj.  After  the  collapse  of  the 
Moghul  and  the  Maratha  Empires,  the  country  had  sunk  into 
unprecedented  disorder  and  violence.  The  Pindari  and  thagi 
depredations  had  reduced  large  parts  of  the  country  into 
chronic  centres  of  insecurity,  plunging  millions  of  people  into 
indescribable  misery.  The  new  rulers  thoroughly  destroyed  the 
lawless  hordes,  brought  the  entire  sub-continent  within  the 
frame  of  a  government  whose  edicts  could  be  challenged  by 
none  with  impunity.  The  Raj  also  established  a  reign  of  law, 
which  provided  the  foundation  for  the  new  system  of  government. 

The  concept  of  personal  liberty,  enshrined  in  the  writ  of 
habeas  corpus,  and  the  doctrine  that  no  person  could  be 
deprived  of  his  liberty  without  the  due  process  of  the  law  were 
something  new  to  ancient  Indian  jurisprudence.  Besides  giving 
the  country  a  firm,  clean  and  efficient  government,  the  new 
rulers  encouraged  the  study  of  India’s  civilization  and  placed 
before  the  world  the  fruits  of  their  research  and  scholarship. 
Indologists  such  as  Nathaniel  Halhed,  Charles  Wilkins,  James 
Prinsep,  Henry  Colebrooke,  H.H.Wilson  and  William  Jones 


K.  M.  Munshi 

worked  tirelessly  in  unearthing  the  almost  forgotten  literary  and 
philosophical  treasures  of  the  land,  making  them  readily 
accessible  to  the  scholar  and  the  common  man  alike.  Acclaimed 
as  a  prodigy  of  learning  and  as  a  linguistic  genius,  Sir  William 
Jones  attained  an  astonishing  mastery  over  India’s  classical 
language,  Sanskrit,  which,  in  his  view,  was  of  “wonderful 
structure  —  more  perfect  than  Greek,  more  copious  than  Latin, 
and  more  exquisitely  refined  than  either”. 

The  introduction  of  quick  means  of  transport  and 
communication  shortened  distances  in  the  sub-continent, 
contributing  to  an  unprecedented  mobility  of  the  population.  A 
Perceptive  observer  declared  that  the  railways  welded  India 
into  a  nation.  Security  of  travel  and  the  speed  at  which 
destinations  could  be  reached  helped  Indians,  and  more 
especially  the  English-educated  class,  to  come  closer  together 
and  to  discuss  their  common  problems.  English,  which  had 
opened  for  them  the  doors  of  Western  learning  and  had  become 
a  powerful  instrument  for  stimulating  their  national  aspirations, 
became  their  lingua  franca.  “The  introduction  of  English 
education”,  wrote  the  veteran  leader,  Dadabhai  Naoroji,  “with 
its  great,  noble,  elevating  and  civilizing  literature  and  advanced 
science,  will  for  ever  remain  a  monument  of  good  work  done 
in  India  and  a  claim  to  gratitude  upon  the  Indian  people”. 
Indeed,  it  was  the  new  learning,  disseminated  through  this 
foreign  medium,  which  created  in  India  a  new  class  imbued  with 
social  purposes,  unusual  to  Hindu  thought. 

The  value  of  British  rule  was  a  strong  disincentive  for 
Indian  politics  to  become  radical  from  its  inception.  A  much 
stronger  reason  was  the  profound  faith  in  the  bona  fides  of 
Whitehall.  The  uprising  of  1857  carried  both  a  lesson  and  a 
warning.  Long  before  this  convulsive  event,  Raja  Ram  Mohan 
Roy  (1774-1833)  had  admonished  his  countrymen  against 

State  of  the  Country 


haste.  He  said:  “When  we  have  to  depend  by  the  very 
conditions  of  our  existence  on  all  things  and  all  beings  in  nature, 
is  not  this  fiery  love  of  national  independence  a  chimera?  India 
requires  many  more  years  of  British  domination”.  Long  after 
him,  this  belief  was  shared  by  most  politicians  till  the  advent  of 
Mahatma  Gandhi  to  the  country’s  supreme  leadership. 

It  is  not  without  significance  that  the  initiative  for  founding 
the  Indian  National  Congress  in  1885  came  from  a  former 
British  civil  servant,  Allan  Octavian  Hume.  On  one  issue,  Indian 
politicians  were  not  prepared  for  any  compromise.  They 
wanted  parliamentary  institutions  of  the  Westminster  type  for 
their  country.  The  new  system  of  education  had  thoroughly 
indoctrinated  them  with  the  British  ideas  and  ideals  of  government. 
Even  before  the  Congress  met  for  its  first  session  in  1885,  the 
prospectus  issued  by  it  declared:  “Indirectly  this  Conference  will 
form  the  germ  of  a  Native  Parliament”.  A  resolution  at  the 
first  session  of  the  Congress  maintained  that  “a  considerable 
portion  of  elected  members”  was  necessary  both  for  the  Central 
and  Provincial  Legislative  Councils.  At  its  second  session  in 
1886,  it  demanded  that  elected  members'  should  constitute  at 
least  one-half  of  all  the  Councils.  It  sometimes  drew'  up  its  own 
schemes  for  constitutional  progress.  Its  Home  Rule  Scheme  of 
1889,  besides  providing  for  the  liberalisation  of  Indian 
representation  in  the  legislatures,  envisaged  adult  suffrage  on  the 
basis  of  certain  qualifications.  In  1895,  a  regular  Constitution 
Bill  was  framed  incorporating  all  the  essential  features  of  a 
democratic  government.  It  was  believed  to  have  been  drawn  up 
under  the  inspiration  of  Tilak. 

The  Congress  demand  for  political  concessions  was  thus 
insistent  and  forthright  but  till  the  coming  of  Gandhi,  it  had  no 
counterpart  in  action.  Congressmen  of  the  earlier  generation 
were  no  political  evangelists,  determined  to  pursue  their  goal  at 


K.  M.  Munshi 

all  costs.  They  were  constitutionalists  to  the  core,  their  attitude 
towards  the  Raj  being  a  mixture  of  admiration  and  awe.  Many 
of  them  believed  that  Britain’s  dominion  over  their  motherland 
was  a  divinely-inspired  arrangement.  Mahatma  Gandhi,  who 
later  blossomed  forth  into  Britain’s  most  formidable  rebel,  held 
strikingly  similar  views  at  the  time  on  the  value  of  British 
connection  with  India.  The  Mahatma,  who  went  to  South  Africa 
in  1893  and  returned  to  India  only  in  January  1915,  was  as 
moderate  in  his  political  convictions  as  his  exemplar,  Gokhale. 
Writing  in  Indian  Opinion  on  June  I,  1907,  Gandhi  strongly 
criticized  Lala  Lajpat  Rai  for  demanding  the  abolition  of  British 
rule.  He  considered  Indo-British  connection  indispensable 
because  public  spirit  was  “not  likely  to  grow  among  us  without 
Western  education  and  contacts  with  the  West”.  Indians  must 
deserve  before  they  desired  national  freedom.  Besides,  the 
British  gave  protection  to  this  country.  He  declared  candidly 
that  it  was  not  “desirable  that  British  rule  in  India 
should  disappear”.* 

Such  loyalty,  perhaps  rare  in  the  history  of  any  dependent 
people,  evoked  no  favourable  response.  The  Morley-Minto 
Reforms,  leading  to  the  framing  of  the  Indian  Councils  Act  of 
1909,  was  acclaimed  as  marking  a  break  with  the  past.  There 
is  indeed  no  foundation  for  any  such  claim.  The  statute  merely 
broadened  the  representation  authorised  by  the  Council  Act  of 
1892.  Except  for  offering  better  opportunities  for  debate,  the 
reformed  legislatures  did  not  change  their  basic  character  as 
mere  darbars.  Nomination  remained  the  dominant  factor  in  the 
selection  of  members  who  were  divided  into  three  different 
categories,  namely,  nominated  official  members,  nominated  non¬ 
official  members  and  elected  members.  The  dismptive  system  of 

*The  Collected  Works  of  Mahatma  Gandhi,  Volume  VII,  Publications 
Division,  Government  of  India,  pp.  6,7. 

State  of  the  Country 


representation  by  communities  was  introduced  in  response  to 
the  demand  by  Muslim  vested  interests  so  that  there  was  no 
uniformity  in  the  methods  and  principles  of  voting. 

The  First  World  War,  which  broke  out  in  Europe  in  August 
1914,  shattered  the  smug  British  belief  that  in 
a  changing  world  the  British  empire  was  the  only  stable  thing.  It 
was  a  global  conflict  which,  besides  destroying  lives  and  limbs, 
smashed  the  status  quo  to  smithereens.  The  war  gave  a 
tremendous  impetus  to  Munshi ’s  patriotic  fervour.  He  believed 
with  many  of  his  forward-looking  countrymen  that  Britain’s 
necessity  was  India’s  opportunity.  His  interest  in  politics  began  in 
1903  when  he  was  in  the  first  year  of  his  college  career.  The 
Congress  session  of  that  year  was  presided  over  by  Surendranath 
Banerjee  who  was  acclaimed  as  the  Indian  Demosthenes  of  his 
times.  Six  years  later  in  1909  Munshi  attended  the  Surat 
Congress,  enthusiastically  serving  as  a  volunteer  in  the  camp  of 
the  so-called  extremists.  In  1915,  by  which  time  he  had  started 
practice  on  the  Original  Side  of  the  Bombay  High  Court, 
Mahatma  Gandhi  returned  to  India.  Some  years  earlier,  H.S.L. 
Polak,  the  Mahatma’s  great  friend  in  South  Africa,  had  visited 
India  and  spent  some  hours  with  Munshi  in  his  home  town  of 
Broach  on  his  way  to  Bombay.  Discussing  the  relative  merits  of 
the  Indian  leaders,  Polak  told  him:  “Not  one  of  them  is  fit  to  hold 
a  candle  to  Mi*.  Gandhi”.  Munshi  was  mightily  impressed  with  the 
Mahatma’s  achievements  in  South  Africa  but  reserved  his 
judgment  on  the  newcomer’s  stature. 

Munshi  was  fascinated  by  Mrs.  Annie  Besant’s  dynamism 
and  enthusiasm  for  Indian  independence.  Dr.  Besant  was 
undoubtedly  the  most  remarkable  British  woman.  She  came  to 
India  in  1 893  and  made  it  her  home  sharing  in  full  measure  the 
joys  and  sorrows  and  the  triumphs  and  humiliations  of  its 
people.  She  was  a  mettlesome  lady  and  made  no  bones  about 


K.  M.  Munshi 

advocating  violence  to  gain  national  ends.  “Violence”,  she  said, 
“is  the  recognised  way  in  England  of  gaining  political  reforms”.* 
Although  she  moderated  her  views  in  later  years,  she  remained 
a  fiery  advocate  of  India’s  liberation  from  British  rule.  She 
started  the  Home  Rule  League  on  September  25,  1915  and 
made  it  a  countrywide  organisation  by  enlisting  influential 
support  and  through  tireless  press  and  platform  propaganda. 
She  never  intended  that  her  League  should  become  a  rival  of 
the  Congress. 

Lokmanya  Tilak,  who  was  fed  up  with  the  politics  of 
Congress  moderates  whose  platform  oratory  had  absolutely  no 
counterpart  in  action,  liked  Dr.  Besant’s  move  and  started  his 
own  Home  Rule  League  at  Poona  in  April  1916  with  Joseph 
Baptista  as  President  and  N.C.Kelkar  as  Secretary.  He  explained 
the  need  for  such  a  body  since  the  Congress  had  become  “too 
unwieldy  to  be  easily  moved  to  prepare  a  scheme  for  self- 
government  and  actively  work  for  its  political  success”.  At  the 
same  time,  he  made  it  clear  that  the  League’s  movement  was  not 
an  exclusive  one.  Very  soon  the  Lokmanya  (respected  by  the 
people)  became  the  hero  of  the  masses,  causing  convulsions  in 
the  bureaucratic  ranks. 

A  branch  of  Dr.  Besant’s  All-India  Home  Rule  League  was 
opened  in  Bombay  with  M.  A.  Jinnah,  then  and  for  many  years 
later  the  darling  of  the  Indian  elite,  as  President  and  M.R. 
Jayakar,  an  eminent  jurist  and  scholar,  as  Vice-President.  Munshi, 
along  with  a  number  of  other  intellectuals,  joined  the  League  and 
worked  tirelessly  to  carry  its  message  in  the  city  and  to  many 
parts  of  Gujarat.  Munshi  was  most  active  and  took  a  leading  part 

* Struggle  For  Freedom:The  History  and  Culture  of  the  Indian  People, 
Volume  XI,  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan,  1969,  p.  233. 

General  Editor:  R.  C.  Majumdar. 

State  of  the  Country 


in  preparing  the  necessary  literature  about  the  movement  for  wide 
dissemination.  Inspired  by  Dr.  Besant’s  example,  he  started  a 
weekly  paper  Young  India  and  edited  it  along  with  Jamnadas 
Dwarkadas.  Indulal  Yagnik  started  the  monthly  Navajivan  in 
Gujarati.  Neither  in  the  Bombay  province  nor  elsewhere  in  the 
country  did  the  League  intend  to  supplant  the  Congress,  but  it 
certainly  strove  to  galvanize  the  national  organisation  to  purposeful 
activity.  As  Munshi  has  written:  “A  new  spirit  had  come  over  the 
public  life  of  the  Province”. 

The  League's  attitude  towards  the  British  policy  on  Indian 
reforms  was  pragmatic  and  rested  on  the  principle  of  responsive 
cooperation.  The  Secretary  of  State  for  India,  Edwin  Montagu’s 
famous  declaration  of  August  1917  was  at  first  joyfully 
welcomed,  acclaiming  it  as  a  Magna  Carta  for  India. 
According  to  the  declaration,  the  policy  of  the  Government  was 
“that  of  the  increasing  association  of  Indians  in  every  branch  of 
the  administration  and  the  gradual  development  of  self- 
governing  institutions  with  a  view  to  the  progressive  realisation 
of  responsible  government  in  India  as  an  integral  part  of  the 
British  Empire”.  The  declaration  added  significantly  that  the 
Government  would  be  the  sole  judge  of  the  time  and  measure 
of  each  advance  which  could  only  be  by  “successive  stages” 
before  the  blessed  goal  could  be  reached.  Progress,  no  matter 
how  slow,  could  be  made  only  on  the  basis  of  unstinted 
cooperation  by  the  Indian  people. 

It  was  a  sonorous  but  unsubstantial  declaration.  The  fact 
that  it  was  drafted  by  Lord  Curzon,  the  arch  enemy  of  Indian 
freedom,  proved  its  emptiness.  The  Montagu  Chelmsford 
Reforms,  based  on  that  declaration,  could  not  by  any  stretch  of 
imagination  be  interpreted  as  a  genuine  essay  in  responsible 
government.  And  yet  they  were  extravagantly  praised  and 
compared  with  the  famous  Durham  Report  on  Canada.  The 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Durham  scheme  of  1839  was  not  a  full  fledged  Dominion 
Constitution  for  Canada,  but  it  undoubtedly  furnished 
a  habitable  posting  house  towards  freedom.  No  such  claim 
could  be  honestly  made  on  behalf  of  the  Montford  Report 
which,  presumably  influenced  by  the  well-known  publicist  and 
imperial  handyman,  Lionel  Curtis,  provided  for  a  novel  and 
thoroughly  unworkable  system  of  dyarchy. 

Munshi  greatly  liked  his  League  work  but  it  did  not  last 
long.  Some  of  its  members,  including  Jinnah,  Jamnadas 
Dwarkadas  and  Umar  Sobhani,  wanted  to  enroll  Mahatma 
Gandhi  as  a  member.  This  was  not  liked  by  others  such  as 
Jayakar.  At  a  meeting  to  which  Gandhi  was  invited,  Jayakar 
explained  that  the  Mahatma  was  “an  all  India  man”  and  a 
“world  figure”  while  the  League  was  a  relatively  small 
organisation.  It  was  necessary  to  keep  its  policies,  methods  and 
activities  “variable”,  to  suit  the  Government’s  attitude  to  the 
Indian  demand.  Such  resilience  was  likely  to  conflict  with 
Gandhi’s  “gospel  of  love  and  peace”.  The  Mahatma  produced 
his  own  arguments  and  succeeded  in  securing  admission.* 

Jayakar ’s  apprehension  that  the  Mahatma  would  gain 
absolute  control  over  the  organisation  and  make  his  own  “fads” 
prevail  came  true.  Munshi,  who  had  stubbornly  resisted  being 
swept  off  his  feet  by  the  “saintly  whirlwind”,  noted  that  with 
the  advent  of  the  Mahatma  the  League  changed  its  ideas  and 
ideals  completely.  He  wrote:  “Gandhiji  was  elected  President 
of  the  All-India  Home  Rule  League  and  some  of  my  friends 
who  thought  they  were  king-makers,  found  to  their  surprise  that 
he  was  no  king  log.  No  resolution  could  be  adopted  unless  it 
was  drafted  by  him.  We  had  no  chance  to  have  votes  taken; 

*The  Story  of  My  Life  (1873-1922)  by  M.  R.  Jayakar,  Volume  I,  Asia, 
1958,  pp .  317-18. 

State  of  the  Country 


a  few  minutes’  discussion  reduced  every  one  to  passive 
acquiescence.  And  in  a  short  time  we  found  that  his  popularity 
was  growing  so  immense  that  far  from  our  having  obliged  him 
by  installing  him  in  that  place,  it  was  he  who  obliged  us  by 
remaining  with  us”. 

Gandhi  changed  the  name  of  the  All-India  Home  Rule 
League  and  called  it  Swarajya  Sabha.  He  also  drastically 
amended  the  aims  and  objects  of  the  League.  The  Swarajya 
Sabha  would  strive  to  “secure  complete  swaraj  for  India 
according  to  the  wishes  of  the  Indian  people”  and  would  carry 
on  a  “continuous  propaganda”  to  organise  them  in  order  to 
attain  this  goal  by  “peaceful  and  effective  action”.  Many 
influential  members  refused  to  endorse  these  changes  on  the 
ground  that  the  new  constitution  of  the  organisation  “deliberately” 
omitted  any  reference  to  British  connection  and  that  it  made 
“unconstitutional  and  illegal  activities”  possible  provided  they 
were  “peaceful  and  effective”.  They,  therefore,  decided  to  leave 
the  League.  Among  those  who  resigned  were  Jinnah,  Jayakar, 
Munshi,  H.V.  Divatia,  Jamnadas  Dwarkadas,  Nagindas  T. 
Master,  Jamnadas  M.  Mehta,  Mangaldas  M.  Pakvasa, 
Gulabchand  Devchand  and  Hiralal  Nanavaty.* 

Defending  himself  in  the  press,  the  Mahatma  maintained 
that  swaraj  was  the  country’s  major  goal  and  that  it  did  not 
matter  whether  it  was  attained  with  or  without  the  British 
connection.  “I  personally  hate”,  he  wrote,  “unconstitutionalism 
and  illegalities,  but  I  refuse  to  make  a  fetish  of  these  as  I  refuse 
to  make  a  fetish  of  the  British  connection”.  He  appealed  to  the 

*The  above  list  of  names  has  been  taken  from  Jayakar’s  The  Story 
of  My  Life,  Volume  1,  p.  405  and  Munshi’s  I  Follow  the  Mahatma. 
While  the  former  gives  six  names,  the  latter  mentions  nine. 

Follow  the  Mahatma  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Allied  Publishers,  1940,  p.  6. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

seceding  members  to  reconsider  their  decision  but  they  did  not. 
Munshi  was  not  yet  prepared  to  follow  the  Mahatma.  He  wrote: 
“Gandhiji  was  a  phenomenon  which  compelled  admiration,  but 
to  me  he  remained  incomprehensible”.  He  felt  that  active  legal 
practice  would  be  far  more  rewarding  than  the  pursuit  of 
Congress  or  League  politics. 


The  Lawyer 

MUNSHI  WENT  TO  BOMBAY  on  July  22,  1910,  to 
receive  his  law  degree  and  to  make  his  career  there.  He 
had  visited  the  city  several  times  before  and  knew  that  it  could 
become  the  most  hospitable  home  for  the  successful  but  pitiless 
to  those  that  failed.  He  had  no  resources  of  his  own  to  fall  back 
upon  nor  did  he  have  rich  cousins  to  maintain  him  during  the 
period  of  his  enforced  idleness.  The  spectacle  presented  by  the 
Bombay  Bar  was  least  reassuring.  Since  its  inception,  it  had  the 
tradition  of  being  one  of  the  strongest  in  India.  It  abounded  in 
lawyers  of  gigantic  stature.  In  the  earlier  generations  there  were 
such  eminent  practitioners  as  Vasudev  Jagganath  Kirtikar, 
maternal  grandfather  of  M.R.  Jayakar,  Badruddin  Tyabji, 
Phirozeshah  Mehta,  Vishwanath  Narayan  Mandalik.  Shantaram 
Narayan  and  K.  T.  Telang.  European  barristers,  for  whom  there 
was  a  marked  preference  in  those  days,  were  also  strongly 
represented  at  the  Bombay  Bar. 

In  Munshi’s  own  time,  the  Bar  looked  like  a 
heavily-guarded  fortress.  Men  of  great  legal  acumen,  ability  and 
experience  manned  its  battlements,  making  it  nearly  impossible 
for  outsiders  to  storm  them  with  success.  There  was  In-verarity, 
with  his  phenomenal  memory  and  remarkable  ability  both  as  a 
lawyer  and  as  an  advocate.  He  was,  however,  in  the  evening  of 
his  life  at  that  time.  Sir  Jamshedji  Kanga,  who  rose  to  become 
the  Advocate-General,  was  an  able  lawyer  with  an  equally 


K.  M.  Munshi 

astounding  memory.  Strongman,  who  also  served  as  Advocate- 
General,  was  another  giant  at  the  Bar  and  was  for  some  years 
Munshi’s  bete  noire.  He  was  an  arrogant  man  who  rarely  forgot 
that  he  belonged  to  the  ruling  class.  He  and  M.  A.  Jinnah  could 
never  brook  each  other’s  presence.  Impeccable  in  his 
professional  etiquette,  Jinnah  was  justly  famous  as  an  advocate 
but  he  was  poor  as  a  lawyer. 

Sir  Chimanlal  Setalvad  was,  yet  another  stalwart  at  the 
Bombay  Bar.  He  was-industrious  and  methodical  and  had  a 
thorough  knowledge  of  legal  principles.  In  his  arguments  he 
produced  no  epigrams  or  recalled  witty  sayings  and  displayed 
a  chilly  scorn  for  all  rhetoric.  He  offered  no  entertainment  but 
appealed  to  the  mind  and  the  intellect.  There  was  M.  R. 
Jayakar,  whose  sound  knowledge  of  Hindu  Law,  with  particular 
reference  to  the  law  of  adoption,  got  him  large  practice. 
Bhulabhai  Desai,  in  whose  chambers  Munshi  worked  for  some 
years,  was  endowed  with  many  qualities  which  brought  him  the 
most  glittering  prizes  in  the  legal  profession.  His  mastery  over 
the  English  language  and  his  oratory,  combined  with  his  sound 
knowledge  of  law,  ensured  that  he  became'  a  luminous  star  at 
the  Bombay  Bar.  Munshi’s  other  and  relatively  younger 
contemporaries  like  Motiial  Setalvad,  Sir  Harilal  Kania,  N.  H. 
Bhagwati,  C.  K.  Daphtary,  M.  R  Amin  and  M.  V.  Desai, 
eventually  rose  to  great  positions  after  spells  of  trial  and 
tribulation  at  the  Bar. 

Apart  from  the  fact  that  a  tiny  close  corporation  of  talent, 
experience  and  influence  controlled  the  great  prizes  of  the 
profession,  the  dual  system  was  a  further  deterrent  to  young 
lawyers’  achieving  early  fame  and  affluence.  Among  the  High 
Courts  in  India,  only  those  of  Bombay,  Calcutta  and  Madras  had 
original  jurisdiction,  the  rest  being  purely  appellate  Courts.  For 
some  time  only  Barristers  had  audience  on  the  Original  Side  of 

The  Lawyer 


the  Calcutta  and  Bombay  High  Courts.  In  Bombay,  a  stiff 
Advocate’s  Examination  was  instituted  in  later  years  to  entitle  the 
holders  of  the  LL.B.  degree  to  practise  on  the  Original  Side. 
There  was  yet  another  hurdle.  In  the  High  Courts  of  Bombay  and 
Calcutta,  Counsel  could  get  briefs  on  the  Original  Side  only  when 
instructed  by  a  solicitor.  There  was  persistent  demand  for  doing 
away  with  the  system  so  that  advocates  could  take  work  direct 
from  clients.  Its  defenders,  however,  argued  that  it  represented  a 
division  of  labour  and  resulted  in  a  more  efficient  and  speedy 
presentation  and  trial  of  cases  before  the  Court.  Whatever  may 
be  the  rights  and  wrongs  of  the  dual  system,  those  lawyers  who 
could  not  succeed  in  winning  the  confidence  of  the  solicitors, 
were  apt  to  be  left  high  and  dry,  notwithstanding  their  great  legal 
abilities.  The  system  has  since  been  done  away  with. 

The  prospects  of  a  successful  legal  career  were  thus  none 
too  bright  for  Munshi.  In  addition,  he  lacked  for  sometime  the 
self-confidence  and  the  sophistication  that  comes  naturally  to  a 
member  of  the  urban  elite  but  is  denied  to  many  hailing  from 
mofussil  backwaters.  For  a  lawyer  the  period  of  waiting  is  both 
a  daunting  and  painful  experience.  It  is  most  depressing  to  go 
day  after  day  to  court  and  sit  there  doing  almost  no  court  work. 
Munshi,  who  was  called  to  the  Bar  two  years  after 
M.  C.  Setalvad  had  joined,  saw  with  his  own  eyes  how  the 
latter,  who  was  also  working  in  Bhulabhai  Desai’s  chambers, 
was  struggling  to  secure  some  rewarding  practice.  This  was  the 
plight  of  a  man  who  was  the  son  of  a  distinguished  and  an 
outstandingly  successful  lawyer.  To  give  another  example,  M. 
C.  Chagla,  who  rose  to  become  the  Chief  Justice  of  the 
Bombay  High  Court,  has  recorded  that  he  had  very  little  work 
at  the  Bar  for  the  first  seven  or  eight  years. 

From  the  time  he  set  his  foot  in  Bombay,  Munshi  decided 
to  make  every  effort  to  succeed  as  a  lawyer.  He  called  on 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Manchhashanker,  brother  of  Jamietram  of  the  well-known  firm 
of  attorneys,  Messrs.  Matubhai  Jamietram  &  Madan.  When  he 
was  sitting  with  the  elder  man,  Munshi  had  a  fleeting  glimpse  of 
his  future  legal  exemplar,  Bhulabhai  Desai.  Even  as  a  young 
man,  Desai  commanded  a  flourishing  practice  after  giving  up  the 
profession  of  teaching  at  Ahmedabad.  Fortunately  for  Munshi, 
Jamietram,  an  influential,  astute  and  strong-minded  attorney, 
became  interested  in  his  career.  He  could  see  that  the  young 
man  had  great  literary  talent  and  many  other  qualities  that  would 
ensure  his  success  at  the  Bar.  In  February  1913,  Munshi 
appeared  for  the  difficult  Advocate’s  examination  and,  despite 
his  diffidence  about  his  performance,  was  declared  successful  in 
the  following  month.  He  was  happy  that  he  could  now  try  to  win 
a  distinguished  place  at  the  Bar  like  Sir  Chimanlal  Setalvad  and 
Sir  Jamshedji  Kanga.  In  June,  Bhulabhai  Desai  took  him  as  his 
junior  after  admonishing  him  with  these  words:  “Lowndes  told 
me  what  I  am  telling  you.  If  you  will  be  useful  to  me,  I  will 
likewise  be  useful  to  you”.  Sir  George  Lowndes,  who  practised 
in  Bombay  for  a  long  time,  later  became  a  member  of  the  Privy 
Council  Bench.  Munshi  soon  proved  that  he  was  a  match  for 
Bhulabhai  Desai  and  the  relations  between  the  two  developed 
into  a  lifelong  friendship. 

Jamietram  and  his  nephew  Narmadashankar  of  another 
firm  of  solicitors  began  to  send  small  briefs  to  Munshi  so  that  his 
fee  book  for  the  year  1913  showed  a  gross  receipt  of  Rs.  1 150, 
not  a  negligible  earning  by  a  beginner.  Munshi  got  his  first 
important  brief  in'  July  of  that  year.  He  appeared  before  Chief 
Justice  Scott  in  an  appeal  from  the  Thana  Court  near  Bombay. 
Ranged  against  him  was  no  less  a  person  than  the  formidable  Sir 
Thomas  Strongman  whose  intimidating  methods  had  almost 
terrorised  the  junior  Bar.  Munshi  persevered  with  his  argument 
despite  frequent  interruptions  by  the  Advocate-General.  Since  he 

The  Lawyer 


was  conducting  his  first  case,  Munshi  fumbled  and  mis-stated  a 
fact  or  two,  but  the  presiding  Judge  was  kind  and  sympathetic. 

Despite  his  inexperience  and  the  bullying  tactics  of 
Strongman,  Munshi  had  done  remarkably  well  and  had  made  a 
good  impression  on  the  Chief  Justice.  A  few  days  later,  Sir 
Jamshedji  Kanga  met  the  young  lawyer  and  told  him  that  the 
Chief  justice  was  pleased  with  his  performance.  “He  remembered 
you”,  said  Sir  Jamshedji,  “when  he  was  making  appointments  of 
Law  Professors,  but  you  are  so  much  of  a  junior”.  Munshi  was 
thrilled.  Success  did  not,  however,  come  to  him  so  easily.  At  the 
beginning,  he  had  to  swallow  the  bitter  drench  of  defeat  on  a 
few  rare  occasions.  His  friends  at  Surat  and  Broach  were  keen 
on  helping  him  with  briefs.  One  such  case  related  to  an  election 
dispute  in  the  Rander  Municipality.  Munshi,  who  was  travelling 
to  appear  in  the  Surat  District  Court,  was  taken  aback  when  he 
found  Strongman  in  another  compartment  of  the  train.  The 
young  lawyer  argued  for  full  four  hours  on  behalf  of  his  client 
but,  after  Strongman’s  half  an  hour’s  reply,  his  elaborately 
constructed  case  fell  like  a  pack  of  cards.  For  all  his  labour,  he 
received  a  packet  of  Surat  sweets  !  To  his  great  mortification, 
he  had  to  pay  from  his  own  pocket  for  his  return  journey. 

In  a  little  over  a  decade,  Munshi  succeeded  in  inspiring 
confidence  among  the  solicitors  and  his  clients  that  he  was  a 
dependable  junior.  It  was  indeed  a  period  of  intensive 
preparation.  He  collected  a  sizable  number  of  pleadings  drafted 
by  such  competent  and  experienced  counsel  as  Inverarity, 
Lowndes  and  Bhulabhai  Desai  and  made  their  style  and 
technique  his  own.  He  assiduously  cultivated  the  habit  of  using 
in  his  own  pleadings  striking  phrases  and  dicta  found  in  classical 
law  books  and  weighty  judgments.  He  studied  the  Privy  Council 
judgments  in  Indian  appeals  and  made  careful  notes  on  them. 
By  such  diligence,  he  succeeded  in  gaining  a  remarkable  grasp 


K.  M.  Munshi 

over  important  legal  principles.  He  also  trained  himself  rigorously 
in  the  art  of  addressing  the  law  courts.  His  style  on  such 
occasions  was  entirely  different  from  the  one  used  by  him  in  his 
public  speeches.  He  was  gifted  with  a  powerful  intellect  and  a 
profoundly  judicious  mind,  both  of  which  received  a  tremendous 
impetus  from  his  disciplined  study  for  over  a  decade. 

Munshi  was  always  pleasant,  reasonable  and  considerate. 
He  had  made  a  strict  rule  of  his  life  never  to  be  rude  or  to  lose 
his  temper.  Persuasion  was  the  greatest  asset  in  his  arguments. 
As  an  advocate,  he  had  a  high  sense  of  vocation  and  gave  his 
unqualified  allegiance  to  the  ideals  of  justice.  Reason  and  logic, 
reinforced  by  persuasion,  should,  according  to  him,  be  the 
hallmark  of  one’s  advocacy  and  not  aggressive  postures  which 
were  unworthy  of  the  noble  calling  of  the  lawyer.  He  shared  the 
belief  that  the  gift  of  persuasion  was  indeed  the  advocate’s  pearl 
of  great  price.  This  is  the  reason  why  his  arguments  were 
distinguished  for  their  sweet  reasonableness.  He  also  attained  a 
high  degree  of  expertness  in  the  art  of  cross-examination.  In 
many  a  cause  celebre,  his  masterly  use  of  this  technique  saved 
the  situation  for  his  clients,  as  we  shall  see  presently.  He  was 
undoubtedly  the  most  versatile  member  of  the  Bombay  Bar. 

The  development  of  Munshi  after  one  decade  of  his 
enrolment  as  a  lawyer  was  so  rapid  that  by  the  nineteen-thirties 
there  was  no  branch  of  law  which  he  had  not  studied  in  depth 
and  used  his  specialised  knowledge  for  the  benefit  of  his  clients. 
He  made  a  penetrating  study  of  ancient  Hindu  sacred  texts  to 
attain  mastery  in  Hindu  Law.  Often  he  enlisted  the  co-operation 
of  learned  shastris  to  interpret  for  him  the  Sanskrit  texts  so  that 
he  could  argue  authoritatively  on  the  legal  points  at  issue. 
Munshi,  who  practised  law  for  over  forty  years,  appeared  in  a 
large  number  of  cases  involving  the  most  varied  points  of  law. 
Although  it  is  impossible  to  do  justice  to  his  skill  as  an  advocate 

The  Lawyer 


and  soundness  as  a  lawyer  in  a  few  pages,  some  instances  of 
his  resourcefulness  and  versatility  may  be  given  here.  No 
chronological  order  is  observed  while  recalling  the  cases  in 
which  he  appeared,  the  criterion  being  their  importance  from  the 
legal  point  of  view. 

Pushpa,  daughter  of  rich  parents  in  Bombay,  was 
attracted  to  a  boy  of  her  caste  when  she  was  still  of  a  tender 
age.  One  day  she  ran  away  from  her  parental  home  and,  after 
going  through  some  form  of  marriage  with  the  young  fellow  in 
the  city’s  working  class  areas,  went  with  him  to  Poona  to  stay 
there.  Her  orthodox  parents  were  deeply  distressed  over  the 
episode.  On  her  returning  home,  she  realised  that  she  had  made 
a  mistake.  Her  parents  did  not  want  to  coerce  her  into 
separating  herself  from  the  young  man.  He  was  called  to  their 
residence  and  was  told  that  a  regular  marriage  befitting  their 
position  would  be  celebrated  if  he  could  persuade  the  girl  to  be 
his  wife.  Pushpa  flatly  refused  to  have  anything  to  do  with  him 
whereupon  he  filed  a  suit  in  the  High  Court  of  Bombay  for  a 
declaration  that  the  girl  was  his  legally  wedded  wife. 

Munshi  was  briefed  to  appear  on  behalf  of  the  girl.  His 
was  a  delicate  undertaking.  The  episode  had  aroused  much 
public  interest.  It  was  asked  what  was  wrong  if  a  commoner 
aspired  for  and  gained  the  hand  of  a  rich  man’s  daughter,  The 
life  of  Munshi,  the  lawyer,  was  far  from  being  prosaic.  Besides, 
he  had  created  enduring  literature  in  Gujarati  on  romantic 
themes.  Bearing  these  facts  in  mind,  Munshi  made  it  clear  to  the 
parents  that  he  would  take  up  the  case  only  if  he  was  convinced 
that  the  girl  was  determined  not  to  go  to  the  young  man  and  was 
willing  to  repudiate  the  so-called  marriage.  He  agreed  to 
proceed  when  he  saw  that  there  was  a  complete  change  in  her 
attitude  towards  the  young  man. 

3-473  m.  ofl&B  /ND/81. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

The  issue  that  needed  clarification  was  whether  the  boy 
and  girl  had  gone  through  the  marriage  ceremony  strictly 
according  to  the  prescriptions  of  Hindu  Law.  On  a  close 
scrutiny  of  the  photographs  of  the  marriage  ceremony,  Munshi 
became  certain  that  some  of  its  essential  features  could  not  be 
seen  in  them.  He  used  all  his  resourcefulness  in  creating  a 
situation  for  the  plaintiff  which  forced  him  to  admit  that  some  of 
the  most  vital  rites  had  not  been  performed  during  the  alleged 
marriage.  In  a  deliberately  long  drawn  out  cross-examination, 
Munshi  asked  him  whether  the  sacred  fire  was  burning  before 
the  couple  throughout  the  marriage  ceremony  on  a  small 
specially  prepared  mud  platform.  He  was  also  asked  whether 
a  brass  tumbler  with  a  coconut  placed  on  it,  another 
indispensable  item  of  the  ceremony,  had  been  used.  The  young 
man  confidently  replied  that  all  the  necessary  prescriptions  had 
been  observed  with  great  care.  Thereupon  he  was  asked  to 
show  where  the  fire  and  the  tumbler  with  the  coconut  called 
Varuna  figured  in  the  photographs.  Both  were  conspicuous  by 
their  absence.  The  conclusion  was  that  there  could  be  no 
marriage  if  there  was  no  prescribed  fire  to  sanctify  it.  The 
disappointed  fellow  shouted  at  Munshi:  “You  have  converted 
wife  into  a  sister”. 

The  question  whether  what  is  known  as  the  anuloma  or 
inter-caste  marriage  is  permitted  by  Hindu  Law  was  considered 
in  the  case  of  Bai  Gulab,  the  offspring  of  a  Vaisya  father  and  a 
Shudra  mother.  The  girl,  who  was  neglected  by  her  father,  was 
taken  by  a  Bhatia  woman  under  her  care  and  was  later  married 
to  a  Vaisya  watch-maker.  After  staying  with  him  for  a  week,  Bai 
Gulab  left  her  husband  refusing  to  return  to  him.  The  man  went 
to  the  court  claiming  conjugal  rights.  While  Bhulabhai  Desai 
appeared  for  him,  Munshi  represented  the  woman.  Munshi, 
who  had  made  a  deep  study  of  Mitakshara,  Mayukha  and  the 
Dharmashastras,  contended  that  Bai  Gulab  was  a  Shudra 

The  Lawyer 


since  she  was  bom  to  a  Shudra  woman.  Since  her  marriage 
with  a  Vaisya  was  anuloma,  it  was  interdicted  by  the  Shastras. 
His  plea  was,  however,  unacceptable  to  the  trial  judge.  The 
issue  was  further  thrashed  out  in  the  Appeal  Court  which  was 
presided  over  by  Chief  Justice  McLeod  and  Sir  Lallubhai  Shah, 
a  profound  scholar.  For  two  days  the  counsel  and  Sir  Lallubhai 
were  engaged  in  unravelling  the  tangled  skein  of  the  ancient 
texts.  Eventually  the  Division  Bench  held  that  anuloma 
marriages  were  not  prohibited  by  Hindu  Law.  In  the  Appellate 
Court  Munshi  was  opposed  by  Jinnah. 

A  nayakin  or  public  woman  called  Nagubai  claime  that 
she  was  the  avaruddha  stree  of  a  deceased  rich  man  and  filed 
a  suit  for  maintenance  against  the  widow  and  children  of  the 
dead  man.  Munshi  appeared  on  behalf  of  the  defendants.  He 
maintained  that  the  deceased  had  relations  with  other  women 
also  and  that  the  defendants  did  not  know  whether  the  plaintiff 
was  a  permanent  or  a  temporary  concubine.  On  the  trial  judge 
negativing  this  contention,  the  suit  was  taken  to  the  Appellate 
Court  consisting  of  Sir  Lallu  bhai,  then  the  acting  Chief  Justice, 
and  Justice  Crump.  Munshi  conceded  that  the  Shastras  did 
recognise  the  right  of  an  avaruddha  stree  to  be  regarded  as  a 
married  woman  and  become  entitled  to  maintenance.  He, 
however,  held  that  a  kept  woman  could  claim  such  a  status  only 
if  she  had  been  accepted  by  the  deceased’s  family.  Nagubai,  he 
contended,  did  not  fulfil  this  essential  requirement.  The  Appellate 
Court  endorsed  this  stand  and  reversed  the  judgement  of  the 
trial  Court.  When  the  case  went  up  to  the  Privy  Council,  Lord 
Darling  favoured  a  secular  and  not  a  scriptural  view  of  the 
matter  and  set  aside  the  decision  of  the  Appellate  Court.  This 
and  the  anuloma  case  established  Munshi ’s  reputation  as  a 
keen  student  of  Hindu  law. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Another  complicated  question,  involving  the  interpretation 
of  Hindu  law,  arose  over  the  division  of  the  property  of  Raja 
Bahadur  Shivlal  Motilal,  a  leading  businessman  and  multi¬ 
millionaire  of  Hyderabad  (Deccan).  The  Raja  died,  leaving 
behind  his  son,  Bansilal,  and  many  grandsons.  In  1922  the 
dispute  between  Bansilal  and  his  two  elder  sons  was  taken  to 
the  Bombay  High  Court  for  hearing  before  Justice  Pratt.  The 
case  hinged  on  the  question  whether  Hindu  father  was  entitled 
to  separate  only  one  of  his  sons  without  ending  the  joint  status 
between  himself  and  the  rest  of  his  sons.  While  Jinnah  and 
Bhulabhai  Desai  appeared  for  the  plaintiffs,  the  two  sons  of 
Bansilal,  he  was  defended  by  Jamshedji  Kanga,  assisted  by 
Munshi  and  Harilal  Kania.  Professor  Gharpure,  an  authority  on 
Dharmashastras,  was  helping  the  counsel  for  the  plaintiffs  with 
the  interpretation  of  the  ancient  texts. 

Munshi  felt  a  similar  need  for  making  a  deep  study  of  the 
Shastras  to  ascertain  the  rights  and  obligations  of  a  father  in 
relation  to  property  under  Hindu  Law.  He  got  hold  of  an 
eminent  scholar  and,  with  his  assistance,  gained  complete 
mastery  over  the  issues  involved.  Munshi’s  turn  came  after 
Jinnah  and  Kanga  finished  their  addresses.  With  complete  self- 
assurance,  he  went  on  citing  one  authority  after  another  from  the 
old  texts  upholding  the  rights  of  a  father.  The  fact  that  he  could 
do  so  after  studying  the  subject  with  the  aid  of  a  traditional 
scholar  was  kept  a  secret.  His  solicitor  was  delighted  because 
Munshi’s  arguments  were  far  more  wide  ranging  than  the  points 
covered  in  the  brief.  While  Kanga  congratulated  him,  Bhulabhai 
warmly  shook  his  pupil  by  the  hand.  Thenceforward  a  steady 
stream  of  briefs  began  to  pour  into  Munshi’s  chamber  from  an 
increasing  number  of  solicitors’  firms.  Since  the  suit  was  settled, 
it  did  not  find  a  place  in  the  Law  Reports. 

The  Lawyer 


In  1936,  Munshi  found  himself  called  upon  to  delve  deep 
into  the  Jaina  canon  in  order  to  do  justice  to  his  clients  in  a  case 
involving  the  flagstaff  of  the  famous  Kesariyaji  temple  in  the 
Udaipur  State  of  Rajasthan.  In  the  early  decades  of  the 
nineteenth  century  the  flagstaff  of  this  temple  had  fallen.  A  new 
one  was  erected  in  its  place  by  the  Svetambars,  members  of 
the  white-clad”  sect,  who  were’  then  in  power.  That  also  came 
down  about  a  century  later  by  which  time  the  Digambaras 
(“space-clad”  or  naked)  had  gained  ascendancy  in  the  State. 
The  question  arose  as  to  which  of  the  two  sects  was  entitled  to 
put  up  a  new  flagstaff.  It  appointed  a  Committee  to  ascertain 
the  standpoints  of  the  feuding  sects  on  the  issue.  M.C.  Setalvad 
appeared  for  the  Digambaras  while  their  opponents  were 
represented  by  Munshi. 

The  question  that  needed  to  be  settled  was  which  of  the 
two  sects  had  built  the  temple  of  Kesariyaji.  Munshi’s 
arguments  is  before  the  Committee  were  marked  by  the  depth 
of  his  legal  and  historical  knowledge.  Muni  Jinvijayji,  who  was 
instructing  Motilal  Setalvad,  declared  that  Munshi’s  interpretation 
of  the  Jaina  canon  was  masterly.  The  Muni,  who  was  a  famous 
scholar,  later  became  the  Director  of  the  Bharatiya  Vidya 
Bhavan.  Munshi,  who  had  a  strong  historical  sense,  was  drawn 
towards  the  ancient  State  of  Udaipur  because  it  was  from  there 
that  the  great  warrior  ruler,  Rana  Pratap,  had  hurled  defiance  at 
the  Moghul  imperialists.  The  Committee’s  findings  about  the 
disputed  temple  flagstaff  did  not  see  the  light  of  day  till  1947 
when  Munshi  was  invited  by  the  ruler  of  the  State  to  become 
his  honorary  constitutional  adviser. 

The  variety  of  cases  handled  by  Munshi  provides  a  true 
index  to  the  versatility  of  his  talent.  In  the  nineteen  forties  it 
became  necessary  for  him  to  make  a  deeper  study  of  the 
Bhagvad  Gita  and  the  philosophy  of  monotheism  in  order  to 


K.  M.  Munshi 

defend  the  tenets  of  the  well-known  sect  of  Swami  Narayan  in 
Gujarat.  A  rival  organisation,  led  by  a  capable  dissident,  had 
been  set  up  in  order  to  preach  religious  doctrines  that  were 
considered  a  heresy  by  the  Acharya  of  the  Swami  Narayan 
sect.  The  protestants  asserted  that  they  were  the  true 
representatives  of  the  faith  and  demanded  that  they  should  be 
allowed  free  access  to  the  various  temples  belonging  to  the  sect. 
Their  leader  had  himself  built  a  number  of  shrines  and  had 
acquired  considerable  influence  in  some  parts  of  rural  Gujarat 
over  a  period  of  half  a  century. 

The  Acharya  filed  a  suit  in  the  Court  at  Borsad,  a  small 
town  in  Gujarat,  against  the  protestants  for  an  injunction  to 
restrain  them  from  going  into  the  temples  in  his  diocese  and  for 
a  declaration  that  they  were  not  the  true  followers  of  Swami 
Narayan.  The  Acharya  gave  his  case  to  Munshi.  At  first  the 
case  attracted  little  attention  partly  because  it  was  heard  in  a 
relatively  obscure  place,  but  it  soon  acquired  considerable 
importance  and  gained  wide  public  attention  since  profound 
issues  of  religious  belief  were  involved.  By  explaining  the  true 
implications  of  monotheism,  Munslii  proved  that  the  doctrines  of 
the  Swami  Narayan  sect  were  derived  from  this  philosophy.  He 
called  attention  to  the  creed  of  the  rival  sect  and  maintained  that 
it  was  destructive  of  the  founder's  doctrine.  J.M.Shelat,  who 
was  briefed  as  Munshi's  junior  in  this  case  and  who  collaborated 
with  him  in  a  number  of  other  cases,  was  of  the  opinion  that  his 
senior's  address  in  the  Borsad  Court  was  "one  of  his  most 
brilliant  performances"*.  Munshi  won  the  Swami  Narayan  case. 
Earlier,  he  had  scored  a  similar  resounding  legal  victory  on 
behalf  of  the  Mullaji  Saheb  of  the  Dawoodi  Borah  community. 

*For  my  material  on  Munshi’s  role  as  a  lawyer,  I  have  drawn  heavily  upon 
Justice  J.  M.  Shelat’s  writings  in  Munshi:  His  Art,  and  Works  vol. 
I,  pp.  127-228  and  Munshi  at  Seventy-five  pp.  45-71. 

The  Lawyer 


Here  he  was  called  upon  to  trace  the  history  of  the  Islamic 
doctrine,  as  it  is  understood  by  the  Borah  community,  of  which 
the  Mulla  Saheb  is  the  head. 

Munshi’s  legal  work  became  more  and  more  diversified 
as  his  reputation  as  an  able  lawyer  increased.  In  the  famous 
Chand  Chhap  Kesari  case,  the  odds  were  heavily  against  him. 
Sir  Thomas  Strongman  and  Bhulabhai  Desai,  who  led  him,  felt 
that  their  client’s  case  was  hopeless.  But  neither  Munshi  nor 
Jamietram,  the  attorney  who  was  deeply  interested  in  the  suit, 
shared  their  pessimism.  An  old  window  was  carrying  on  an 
extensive  business  in  saffron.  She  had  received  a  large 
consignment  of  this  commodity  from  Spain  and  directed  her 
muccadam  to  take  its  delivery.  Towards  this  end,  she  signed 
certain  papers  produced  by  him.  Being  illiterate,  she  did  not 
know  what  the  document  was  really  about.  On  being  asked  to 
deliver  the  imported  saffron  to  the  firm,  the  man  replied  that  the 
consignment  had  been  pledged  with  him  to  secure  the 
repayment  of  Rs.  20,000  advanced  by  him  to  the  firm. 

In  the  absence  of  Bhulabhai  Desai,  his  senior,  Munshi 
argued  the  case  on  behalf  of  the  widow  before  Justice  Crump 
of  the  Bombay  High  Court.  The  muccadam  produced  his 
books  of  account  to  prove  that  the  transaction  was  genuine. 
A  sound  knowledge  of  book-keeping  was  necessary  to  verify 
this  claim.  Munshi  carefully  scrutinized  the  various  entries  in 
the  books  and  after  two  or  three  days  of  gruelling  work 
discovered  that  they  had  been  cooked  up  in  order  to  show  a 
balance  of  Rs.  20,000.  The  muccadam’s  case  was  lost,  but  it 
was  upheld  in  the  Appellate  Court.  Thereupon  the  widow  went 
to  the  Privy  Council  where  her  case  was  argued  by  Sir  George 
Lowndes.  The  highest  judicial  authority  upheld  the  view  taken 
by  the  trial  judge  and  the  decree  of  the  Appellate  Court  was 
reversed.  The  widow’s  victory  was  indeed  a  triumph  for 
Munshi’s  forensic  abilities. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Munshi  proved  equally  resourceful  in  opposing  the 
Demonetisation  Ordinance  of  the  Government  of  India, 
prohibiting  the  cashing  of  1 000-rupee  currency  notes  after  a 
certain  specified  date.  He  had  discussions  with  some  of  the 
leading  financiers  and  had  made  a  thorough  study  of  the  history 
of  promissory  notes  issued  by  the  Bank  of  England.  He  came 
to  the  conclusion  that  the  Ordinance  could  not  exonerate  the 
Reserve  Bank  of  India  from  its  I.O.U.  obligation  to  the 
promiser.  He  accordingly  filed  a  mandamus  petition  which 
was  heard  by  Justice  Kania.  On  getting  an  adverse  verdict, 
he  went  to  the  Appellate  Court  consisting  of  Chief  Justice 
Sir  Leonard  Stone  and  Justice  Lokur.  He  gave  such  an 
outstanding  performance  before  them  that  the  Chief  Justice 
described  his  arguments  as  “brilliant  and  exhaustive”.  The 
petition,  however,  failed. 

Munshi  became  an  expert  in  the  income-tax  law  and 
developed  an  extensive  practice  in  this  line.  He  w&s  much 
sought  after  by  wealthy  income  tax-payers  so  that  he  had  to  go 
up  and  down  the  country  frequently  to  appear  before  the 
Income  Tax  Tribunals.  He  appeared  in  some  of  the  leading 
income-tax  cases  before  the  High  Courts  and  the  Supreme 
Court  till  he  gave  up  legal  practice.  He  also  received  a  large 
number  of  cases  concerning  litigation  over  the 
teji  mandi  transactions.  Through  diligence  and  persistence,  he 
succeeded  in  correcting  the  strongly  held  view  that  these 
transactions  were  no  better  than  wagering  contracts.  Thus  in 
commercial  matters  also  he  became  a  leading  practitioner.  As 
his  reputation  as  a  sound  lawyer  increased,  a  steady  stream  of 
briefs  flowed  into  his  chamber  for  opinion  and  advice. 

During  his  long  career  at  the  Bar,  Munshi  had  some 
strange  experiences.  In  December  1941,  he  received  an  urgent 
message  from  Mahatma  Gandhi  asking  him  to  proceed  to 

The  Lawyer 


Ratlam,  a  medium-sized  princely  State  in  Central  India.  Some 
seven  or  eight  persons,  including  a  local  doctor  and  a  lawyer, 
had  been  tried  and  sentenced  to  seven  years’  rigorous 
imprisonment  on  the  charge  of  conspiring  to  overthrow 
the  lawfully  established  Government  of  Maharaja  Sajjan  Singh. 
One  of  the  accused  had  died  in  prison.  There  was  no 
propertrial  and,  with  the  suppression  of  the  Praja  Mandal,  the 
people  were  terror-stricken.  Munshi  was  required  to  appear 
before  the  Privy  Council  of  the  State  which  had  agreed  to  hear 
the  appeal  of  the  accused. 

Munshi  knew  the  state  of  affairs  in  most  of  the  States. 
Their  subjects  did  not  ask  for  anything  more  than  government 
by  laws  so  that  they  might  have  security  of  life  and  property. 
They  wanted  their  rulers  not  to  waste  the  meagre  revenues  on 
costly  eccentricities  and  to  give  a  modest  share  in  the 
administration  to  the  people’s  representatives.  To  counter  these 
demands  high-sounding  constitutional  principles  were 
propounded,  claiming  that  the  rulers  were  not  free  to  divest 
themselves  of  their  powers  and  thus  become  disabled  to  fulfil 
their  obligations  to  the  paramount  power.  Nobody  had  asked 
them  to  strip  themselves  of  their  ruling  powers  to  that  extent. 
The  plain  fact  is  that  they  were  unwilling  to  shed  their  autocracy 
and  in  this  they  were  sometimes  encouraged  by  the  Political 
Department  of  the  Government  of  India.  The  hand  of  the 
Political  Department  was  evident  in  the  so-called  conspiracy 
case  in  Ratlam. 

Munshi  was  extremely  busy  at  the  time  he  was  asked  to 
go  to  Ratlam.  A  mass  of  material  about  the  case,  much  of  it  in 
Hindi,  needed  to  be  studied.  Fortunately,  he  had  the  able 
assistance  of  Shelat,  although  he,  like  Munshi,  was  not  much 
conversant  with  Hindi.  No  adjournment  of  the  case  was 
allowed.  It  was  tried  by  the  Dewan  or  Prime  Minister,  the 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Revenue  Minister  and  the  Home  Minister  of  the  State.  The 
Dewan  blandly  asked  Munshi  whether  he  could  read  his  daily 
newspaper  during  the  proceedings!  The  Bombay  lawyer  gladly 
agreed.  It  was  evident  from  the  very  outset  that  the  charges 
against  the  accused  were  bogus.  When  asked  with  what 
weapons  these  men  wanted  to  overthrow  the  Government,  the 
Advocate  for  the  State  replied  “rifles”.  On  inspection,  permission 
for  which  was  most  reluctantly  given,  the  so-called  weapons 
turned  out  to  be  toy-guns  of  Japanese  manufacture  while  the 
“ammunition”  for  these  lethal  weapons  happened  to  be  a  heap 
of  burnt  matches!  Munshi,  who  has  described  the  case  himself, 
declared  that  it  was  more  fantastic  “than  anything  in  a  Gilbert 
and  Sullivan  opera”.  The  whole  proceedings  were  thus  most 
funny  though  not  for  the  persecuted  men. 

The  Maharaja  was  a  good  man  who  blamed  his  Defence 
Minister,  Shivjibhai,  for  mishandling  the  whole  affair.  Shivji  was 
a  powerful  and  much-feared  man  in  the  State.  He  was  an  ill- 
bred  and  arrogant  fellow  but  he  had  sense  enough  to  realise  that 
his  game  was  up.  He  invited  Munshi  to  his  residence.  In  the 
interest  of  the  accused  the  lawyer  could  not  refuse.  He  was 
given  a  royal  reception  at  Shivji’s  house.  The  host  pressed  the 
lawyer,  who  had  made  it  an  inflexible  rule  not  to  eat  anything 
between  lunch  and  dinner,  to  taste  at  least  one  Kachauri,  a 
delicacy  peculiar  to  Gujarat  and  Rajasthan.  Again,  for  the  sake 
of  his  clients,  Munshi  complied.  He  has  recorded  that  “it  was 
the  finest  of  its  kind”.  He  had  a  midnight  interview  with  the 
Maharaja  to  whom  he  suggested  a  modus  vivendi  for  ordering 
the  release  of  all  the  accused  persons.  All  was  thus  well  that 
ended  well.  As  an  epilogue  to  his  narration  of  the  case,  Munshi 
writes:  “The  professional  etiquette  in  England  affords  a  lady- 
lawyer  to  shed  tears — of  course,  professional — to  secure  a 
verdict  for  her  client.  Why  should  I  not  eat  a  Kachauri  to 
secure  the  same  result?” 

The  Lawyer 


In  1 944,  Munshi  was  required  to  conduct  in  the  Madras 
High  Court  a  case  described  by  Shelat  as  the  cause  celebre  of 
the  century.  A  man  called  Lakshmikantam  was  a  notorious 
criminal.  He  had  a  great  deal  of  vulgar  talent,  a  daring 
impetuosity  and  utter  contempt  for  decency.  In  the  thirties  he 
had  escaped  fromcustody  twice  when  he  was  arraigned  for 
committing  forgery.  He  went  underground  in  the  South,  married 
a  girl  and  would  probably  have  spent  the  rest  of  his  life  in 
anonymity  had  not  his  birth  marks  betrayed  him.  He  was  re¬ 
arrested  and  sent  to  prison.  After  his  release  he  started  a  Tamil 
weekly  called  Cinema  Thoothu  which  specialised  in  ruining  the 
reputation  of  well-known  persons  and  more  especially  of  those 
of  the  cinema  world.  The  weekly  was  suppressed  but 
Lakshmikantam  started  another  organ  called  Hindu  Nesan. 

At  that  time  the  cinema  industry  was  at  the  peak  of  its 
prosperity.  Munshi,  who  has  written  about  the  case  himself, 
says:  “Rivers  of  black  money  flowed  in  swift  floods”.  The  cinema 
stars  led  the  most  glamorous  lives,  spent  huge  sums  of  money 
recklessly  and  engaged  themselves  in  “promiscuous  intimacies”. 
They  thus  provided  ample  grist  to  the  adventurer’s  journalistic 
mill.  He  was  a  talented  and  forceful  writer  and  since  his  exposures 
were  founded  on  more  or  less  ascertained  facts  they  were 
most  damaging  to  his  victims.  His  weekly  paper  attained 
phenomenal  popularity  and  its  issues  could  be  bought  only  at  a 
premium.  His  slanderous  and  sensational  writings  titillated  the 
masses  as  nothing  else  could  and  they  came  to  regard  this 
resourceful  scoundrel  as  a  messiah.  But  in  the  bargain  he  had 
made  many  powerful  enemies. 

On  November  8,  1944,  Lakshmikantam  was  stabbed  in 
a  rickshaw  while  he  was  returning  home  from  his  lawyer’s 
residence.  He  was  rushed  to  a  nearby  hospital,  where  he  died 
after  an  operation.  Fifty  thousand  people  attended  the  funeral  of 


K.  M.  Munshi 

“this  self-constituted  defender  of  the  honour  of  Indian 
womanhood.”  It  was  not  easy  to  trace  the  culprits,  but, 
following  a  tremendous  public  outcry,  three  leading  cinema 
figures,  namely,  M.K.Thiagaraja  Bhagavathar,  the  popular 
singer  of  cinema  songs,  N.  S.  Krishnan,  a  resourceful  comedian, 
and  S.  M  Sriramalu  Naidu,  a  well-known  film  director  and 
producer,  were  arrested.  Munshi  was  briefed  to  defend  the  last- 
named  accused.  As  many  as  twenty  six  lawyers  were  engaged 
in  the  case.  Munshi’ s  appearance  on  the  scene  created  some 
heart-burning  among  the  elite  of  the  Madras  Bar.  They 
wondered  how  a  civilian  lawyer  could  acquit  himself  competently 
in  a  criminal  case.  They  were  soon  to  realise  how  wrong  they 
were  in  their  estimate  of  his  abilities. 

The  prosecution  was  conducted  by  P.  V.  Rajamannar, 
Advocate-General,  who  later  became  the  Chief  Justice  of  the 
Madras  High  Court.  So  far  as  Munshi’s  client,  Sriramalu  Naidu, 
was  concerned,  he  was  told  that  the  battle  could  be  won  if  he 
could  succeed  in  proving  the  falsity  of  the  evidence  of  the 
prosecution  witness,  Kamalanathan,  a  relative  of  the  dead  man. 
It  was  alleged  that  Lakshmikantam  had  first  been  attacked  on 
October  19  with  a  knife.  Referring  to  this  incident,  Kamalanathan 
had  told  the  Magistrate  that  three  days  later,  that  is  on  October 
22,  he  was  present  when  Naidu  and  Bhagavathar  were 
discussing  with  another  man  about  the  killing  of  Lakshmikantam. 

Munshi  was  instructed  to  extract  from  Kamalanathan  the 
admission  that  he  had  started  from  his  residence  to  meet 
Bhagavathar  and  Naidu  on  that  day  only  after  4.30  P.M.  and 
not  before  because  he  believed  that  the  rahukalam  lasted  till 
that  hour.  Rahukalam,  which  occurs  at  varying  but  ascertainable 
times,  is  generally  avoided  by  orthodox  persons  in  the  South 
when  they  go  out  on  an  important  errand.  Everything  depended 
upon  Munshi’s  skill  in  cross-examination.  “For  the  first  time  in 

The  Lawyer 


my  experience”,  he  wrote,  “the  life  of  a  human  being  was 
hanging  on  my  skill  as  a  questioner”.  He  was  somewhat 
unnerved  by  the  heaviness  of  his  responsibility.  Without  giving 
the  slightest  inkling  to  Kamalanathan  as  to  what  he  was  driving 
at,  the  lawyer  asked  him  at  what  time  he  reached  the 
place  where  the  two  accused  were  staying.  He  replied  that  it 
was  at  5  P.M.  Replying  to  another  carefully  planned  question, 
he  said  that  he  did  not  leave  his  house  earlier  because  of 
rahukalam.  The  man  fell  into  the  cleverly-laid  trap.  The 
inauspicious  time  ended  at  4.30  P.M.,  not  on  October  22,  but 
on  October  26  when  Naidu  was  at  the  Taj  Mahal  Hotel  in 
Bombay.  The  collapse  of  Kamalanathan  broke  the  back  of  the 
prosecution  case  against  Naidu  who  was  acquitted.  This 
created  a  great  sensation. 

Munshi,  who  was  promptly  briefed  to  defend  Krishnan, 
was  unsuccessful  in  his  attempt.  All  the  accused  were  found 
guilty.  The  case  went  up  to  the  Privy  Council  which  held  that  the 
evidence  could  be  examined  afresh  by  the  Appeal  Court. 
This  was  done  and  the  two  accused  were  given  the  benefit  of 
the  doubt  and  acquitted.  Munshi  did  not  forget  the  other 
five  accused  who  had  neither  the  resources  nor  the  influence 
of  Bhagavathar  and  Krishnan.  He  successfully  sought  the 
intervention  of  Dr.  P.  Subharayan,  Home  Minister  of  Madras, 
for  their  release.  Commenting  on  Munshi’ s  performance  in  the 
famous  case,  Rajamannar  wrote:  “Being  myself  a  devotee  of 
literature  and  a  dabbler  in  play-writing,  I  could  see  and 
appreciate  very  often  the  sweep  of  imagination  and  his  intimate 
knowledge  of  human  nature  in  his  cross-examination  of  the 
prosecution  witnesses”. 

The  second  World  War,  which  lasted  from  1939  to 
1945,  was  the  most  memorable  event  because  it  profoundly 
affected  the  course  of  Indian  history.  Due  to  Whitehall’s  in 


K.  M.  Munshi 

transigence  on  the  issue  of  Indian  freedom,  the  Congress 
withdrew  its  ministries  from  eight  provinces  in  October  1939, 
leaving  the  field  wide  open  for  the  Muslim  League  to  crusade 
for  the  destruction  of  the  country’s  immemorial  territorial 
integrity.  Government  by  ordinances  became  a  regular  feature  of 
the  Indian  administration.  In  August  1942,  the  Congress 
launched  its  famous  “Quit  India”  movement  which  gave  a  further 
impetus  to  the  repressive  policy  of  the  Government.  Small- 
minded  men  made  no  bones  about  misusing  their  authority  by 
curtailing  the  civil  liberties  of  the  people.  The  provisions  of  the 
Defence  of  India  Act  were  flagrantly  abused.  Munshi,  along 
with  a  few  fearless  and  self-abnegating  lawyers,  decided  to 
defend  the  personal  liberty  and  the  political  rights  of  the  people. 
He  performed  this  self-imposed  task  with  missionary  zeal  and 
moved  up  and  down  the  country  for  this  purpose. 

Munshi  went  to  the  rescue  of  the  famous  Editor  of 
the  Bombay  Sentinel,  B.  G.  Horniman,  against  whom  the 
Allahabad  High  Court  had  issued  a  warrant  of  arrest  for 
Contempt  of  Court.  The  lawyer’s  contention  that  the  Allahabbad 
High  Court  had  no  jurisdiction  to  issue  such  a  warrant  in  other 
provinces  was  upheld  by  the  Bombay  High  Court.  The  verdict 
created  a  sensation  in  the  country.  Munshi  won  the  Horniman 
case  by  calling  attention  to  the  fact  that  there  had  been  no 
precedent  for  issuing  such  a  warrant.  The  Contempt  of  Court 
proceedings  against  the  Tribune  of  Lahore,  however,  demanded 
tremendous  efforts  on  the  part  of  Munshi  to  win  for  that  paper 
and  for  the  Indian  press  as  a  whole  the  right  to  publish  news 
and  to  comment  on  public  affairs  freely  and  without  the  fear  of 
dire  consequences. 

The  Contempt  of  Court  case  against  the  paper  was  heard 
by  a  full  bench  of  the  Lahore  High  Court  consisting  of  Chief 
Justice  Sir  Trevor  Harris,  Justice  Munir  and  Justice  Teja  Singh. 

The  Lawyer 


Sir  Manoharlal  was  then  a  Minister  of  the  Punjab  Government 
besides  being  a  trustee  of  the  Tribune .  He  mildly  hinted  to  his 
guest  that  the  Gandhi  cap  he  wore  might  not  be  liked  by  the 
Court.  Munshi  replied  that  if  that  was  so  somebody  else  would 
have  to  conduct  the  case.  The  cap,  we  are  told,  stood  the  test 
!  Sir  Trevor,  according  to  Munshi,  was  not  only  one  of  the 
greatest  judges  but  also  “pleasant,  informal,  clear-headed, 
open-minded,  courteous”.  Munshi  went  into  the  Law  of 
Contempt  of  Court  at  clients  with  great  cogency  for  several 
days.  He  was  heard  great  length,  presenting  his  arguments  on 
behalf  of  his  by  all  in  silence  except  by  Justice  Munir  who  often 
interrupted  him  as  he  was  annoyed  at  his  judgment  being 
questioned.  He  asked  with  some  heat:  “Why  should  the  papers 
publish  the  comments  of  a  Judge?  For  their  own  safety  they 
should  publish  only  the  Judgments”.  The  counsel  reminded  the 
Judge  that  in  that  event  the  freedom  of  the  press  would  be  lost. 
Justice  Munir  declared:  “Justice  is  not  a  handmaid  of  journalists”. 
Munshi  mildly  but  firmly  retorted:  “Neither,  my  Lord,  is  it  a 
cloistered  virtue  that  cannot  stand  the  public  gaze”.  Munshi  won 
the  Tribune  case. 

Munshi  had  to  return  to  Lahore  soon,  this  time 
on  a  strange  misson.  Jayaprakash  Narayan  was  among  the 
prominent  and  most  active  participants  in  the  "Quit  India" 
movement.  After  much  effort  the  Government  arrested  him  and 
held  him  in  duress  at  Lahore.  H.R.  Pardiwala,  a  lawyer  from 
Bombay,  proceeded  to  Lahore  to  file  a  Habeas  Corpus 
petition  on  his  behalf.  The  Government  of  Punjab  realised  that 
it  was  impossible  to  resist  the  petition  and  accordingly  declared 
Jayaprakash  Narayan  a  State  prisoner  under  Regulation  III  of 
1818  in  order  to  take  away  jurisdiction  of  the  judiciary  in  the 
case.  Pardiwala  was  himself  arrested  as  soon  as  he  came  out 
of  the  High  Court  after  filing  the  Habeas  Corpus  application. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Munshi  saw  the  futility  of  going  to  Lahore  to  defened 
Jayaprakash  Narayan’s  petition  but  he  was  persuaded  to 
proceed.  During  the  train  journey  he  drafted  a  petition  against 
three  C.I.D.  officers  of  the  Punjab  for  arresting  Pardiwala  while 
performing  his  duty  as  an  advocate  and  for  withholding  from  the 
High  Court  of  Lahore  his  Habeas  Corpus  petition  made  while 
he  was  in  jail.  On  reaching  the  High  Court  he  applied  for  a  rule 
for  contempt  against  all  the  three  police  officers.  Pardiwala  had 
maintained  a  diary  of  the  happenings  at  Lahore  and  one  of  the 
entries  showed  the  date  on  which  he  had  submitted  the  Habeas 
Corpus  application.  The  Court  permitted  Munshi  to  cross- 
examine  Superintendent  Robinson,  a  powerful  man  at  that  time. 
Closely  questioned  by  the  counsel,  he  admitted  that,  far  from 
forwarding  Pardiwala’s  Habeas  Corpus  application  to  his 
superior  officer,  he  had  torn  it  up.  Asked  why  he  did  so,  he 
replied:  “I  think  I  was  foolish”.  Munshi’s  triumph  at  Lahore  was 
yet  another  feather  in  his  cap  as  an  astute  lawyer. 

Following  the  arrest  of  all  the  prominent  Congress  leaders 
on  August  8,  1942,  as  a  pre-emptive  action  against  the  “Quit 
India”  movement,  the  country  became  leaderless.  There  was 
violence  in  some  parts  as  a  protest  against  Government’s 
oppressive  measures.  In  the  villages  of  Chimur  and  Ramtek  and 
in  the  town  of  Ashti,  all  in  the  Central  Provinces,  now  known 
as  Madhya  Pradesh,  mobs  rose  in  rebellion  against  authority, 
killing  some  officers  and  indulging  in  arson  and  looting.  The 
Government,  after  ruthlessly  suppressing  the  riots,  put  a  number 
of  persons  on  trial.  Munshi  and  his  colleagues,  including 
Shelat,  A. C. Amin  and  J.H.  Dave,  defended  the  accused.  The 
Chimur  case  gained  greater  public  attention  since  Professor 
Bhansali  went  on  an  indefinite  fast  demanding  an  impartial 
inquiry  into  the  excesses  committed  by  soldiers  in  that  village. 
Munshi  also  played  a  crucial  role  in  securing  the  release  of  the 
well-known  Socialist  leader,  Purshottam  Trikamdas,  who,  like 

The  Lawyer 


Jayaprakash  Narayan,  had  done  much  to  galvanize  the  “Quit 
India”  movement. 

Munshi’s  career  as  a  lawyer  did  not  end  with  his  hectic 
war-time  professional  activities.  National  independence  saw 
him  holding  important  positions  in  the  Government. 
He  duly  returned  to  the  Bar  after  fulfilling  his  obligations  to 
the  State.  Neither  age  nor  long  spells  of  absence  from  the  law 
courts  had  diminished  his  abilities  either  as  a  lawyer  or  as  an 
advocate.  He  showed  the  same  skill  and  originality  in  the 
interpretation  of  the  law  and  the  same  astuteness  in  his 
arguments.  His  appearance  in  the  Express  Newspapers 
Private  Ltd.  case,  in  the  Hamdard  Dawakhana  case  and  in 
the  Mulaji  Saheb ’s  case  made  legal  history.  He  gave  repeated 
proofs  before  the  highest  judiciary  of  the  land,  the  Supreme 
Court,  that  his  forensic  powers,  far  from  fading  away,  were  in 
fact  on  the  increase. 

Munshi  had  some  firm  convictions  about  the  duties  and 
obligations  of  the  profession  of  a  lawyer  and  was  not  prepared 
to  compromise  with  them  on  any  account.  In  1941,  he  received 
from  Mahatma  Gandhi  through  Sardar  Patel  a  message  urging 
him  not  to  appear  against  the  Indian  National  Trade  Union 
Congress  on  behalf  of  his  employer-clients.  He  did  not  accept 
this  suggestion.  He  explained  that  as  long  as  a  lawyer  was  in 
practice,  his  professional  obligations  demanded  that  he  should 
not  deny  his  services  to  those  who  retained  him  unless  for 
personal  reasons  he  could  not  do  justice  to  their  case.  He  made 
it  clear  to  the  Mahatma  that  he  could  not  abjure  his  professional 
obligations  so  long  as  he  remained  in  practice. 

The  question  whether  a  lawyer  should  defend  only 
innocent  persons  is  as  old  as  the  history  of  law  and  indeed  of 
justice  itself.  It  was  asked  in  Athens  and  in  Rome  and  continues 
to  be  asked  down  to  the  present  day.  For  instance  the  legend 


K.  M.  Munshi 

grew  that  the  famous  British  lawyer,  Sir  Edward  Clarke, 
K.  C.,  never  defended  anybody  unless  he  believe  him  to  be 
innocent.  It  had,  of  course,  no  foundation  in  fact.  It  is  not  the 
business  of  counsel  to  decide  whether  people  are  guilty  or  not. 
A  greater  advocate  than  Clarke,  the  immortal  Erskine,  told  the 
jury  thus  when  defending  Tom  Paine:  "If  the  advocate  refuses  to 
defend  from  what  he  may  think  of  the  charge  or  the  defence,  he 
assumes  the  character  of  the  judge,  nay,  he  assumes  it  before 
the  hour  of  judgment...  and  puts  the  heavy  influence  of  a 
perhaps  mistaken  opinion  into  the  scale  against  the  accused . "* 

Munshi  found  the  profession  of  law  both  challenging  and 
rewarding.  He  had  reached  its  summit  but  his  dynamism,  and 
versatility  drove  him  into  other  fields  of  activity.  The  calls  of  the 
Muse  and  the  motherland  were  indeed  resistible.  A  gifted  writer 
in  Gujarati,  it  was  impossible  for  him  to  repress  his  creative 
urges.  Even  as  he  was  building  up  his  legal  career  and  was 
scaling  new  heights  in  that  profession,  which  demanded  the 
most  strenuous  exertions  on  his  part,  he  wrote  abundantly, 
continually  enriching  and  enlarging  the  Gujarati  literature.  By  the 
time  he  decide  to  return  to  politics,  there  were  to  his  credit 
more  than  twenty  works,  including  short  stories,  social, 
mythological  and  historical  novels  and  plays,  literary  criticism 
and  historical  biographies. 

The  happenings  in  the  country,  which  will  be  dealt  with  in 
the  ensuing  chapters,  and  the  call  of  Mahatma  Gandhi  for 
sacrifice  by  his  countrymen  decided  Munshi  to  throw  away  his 
lucrative  practice.  Both  the  Bar  and  the  Bench  of  Bombay  were 
unhappy  about  it.  Sir  Chimanlal  Setalvad  strongly  advised  him 
not  to  re-enter  politics,  but  he  plunged  “headlong”  into  the 

*Six  Great  Advocates  by  Lord  Birkett,  Penguin,  1961,  p.  49. 

The  Lawyer 


Gandhian  movement*.  The  Chief  Justice  of  Bombay  said  to  a 
lawyer:  “Look,  what  Munshi  has  gone  and  done!  I  was  just 
thinking  of  recommending  him  for  a  High  Court  Judgeship.” 
Munshi  was  in  the  company  of  illustrious  lawyers  like  C.R.  Das, 
Motilal  Nehru,  M.  R.  Jayakar,  Bhulabhai  Desai  and  many 
others  when  he  gave  up  his  practice.  None  of  these  eminent 
men  believed  in  boycotting  the  law  courts,  but  they  were  too 
patriotic  to  ignore  the  Mahatma’s  call  for  sacrifice. 

* Recollections  and  Reflections  by  Sir  Chimanlal  H.  Setalvad,  Padma 
Publications,  1 946,  p.  7 1 . 


The  Exemplars 

MUNSHI  HAD  GREAT  admiration  for  Mohammad  Ali 
Jinnah,  Dr.  Annie  Besant,  Mahatma  Gandhi  and  Sardar 
Vallabhbhai  Patel.  When  he  entered  the  Bombay  Bar  in  1910 
it  was  his  desire  to  become  Jinnah’ s  junior  but  was  persuaded 
by  Jamietram,  the  attorney,  to  accept  Bhulabhai  Desai  as  his 
senior.  Both  then  and  for  several  decades  thereafter,  Jinnah  was 
highly  esteemed  by  the  politically-conscious  intellectual  classes 
of  Western  India.  At  that  time,  he  was  an  uncompromising 
secularist  and  an  ardent  patriot,  besides  being  an  able  and 
astute  advocate.  Like  most  of  his  Hindu  friends,  who  never 
allowed  their  political  outlook  to  be  darkened  by  religious 
prejudice,  he  was  admirably  non-communal  in  his  attitudes  and 
utterances.  Munshi,  who  was  closely  associated  with  him  for 
many  years  both  in  politics  and  in  the  legal  profession,  writes  : 
“He  (Jinnah)  had  never  visited  a  mosque;  he  had  never  read  the 
Koran  so  far  as  I  know;  he  did  not  know  any  language  other 
than  Gujarati,  English  and  Kutchhi — a  dialect  used  by  the 
Hindus  and  Muslims  of  Kutch  and  some  parts  of  Kathiawad, 
from  which  he  himself  came”*.  This  was  also  the  view  of  Dr. 
B.R.  Ambedkar. 

Jinnah,  before  he  became  a  convert  to  Islamic  irredentism, 
scorned  bigotry.  He  once  told  Pandit  Motilal  Nehru,  another 

* Indian  Constitutional  Documents,  Volume  I,  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom 
(1902-1950)  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan, 
1967,  p.  8. 

The  Exemplars 


convinced  secularist,  that  he  abhorred  the  Mullahs  and  believed 
in 4 ‘none  of  their  nonsense”  although  he  had  somehow  “to  carry 
these  fools  along”.  The  Mullahs  in  their  turn  never  regarded  him 
as  a  true  follower  of  Islam,  some  of  them  parading  his  photo  in 
the  countryside  to  tell  their  fanatical  co-religionists  that  his 
beardless  face  was  least  Islamic.  Even  when  the  flame  of 
religion  began  to  bum  brightly  in  his  fragile  frame  in  the  evening 
of  his  life,  when  the  British  discovered  a  new  destiny  for  him, 
he  remained  as  ignorant  of  Islam  as  during  his  great  nationalist 
days.  Colin  Reid  of  the  Daily  Telegraph  had  made  a  profound 
study  of  the  Koran  in  Arabic.  He  often  met  Jinnah  after  the 
latter  had  become  Quaid-i-Azam  but  found  that  his  knowledge 
in  such  matters  was  nil. 

From  the  beginning  of  his  career  as  lawyer-politician, 
Jinnah  had  found  the  company  and  friendship  of  Hindu 
intellectuals  most  congenial  to  his  temperament  and  outlook.  He 
built  up  his  reputation  as  an  outstanding  advocate  by  appearing, 
as  we  saw  in  the  last  chapter,  in  a  number  of  cases  involving  the 
interpretation  of  Hindu  Law.  Gopal  Krishna  Gokhale  was  his 
greatest  exemplar  in  the  political  life.  And  yet  this  man,  turned 
his  back  on  nationalism  and  worked  with  relentless  pertinacity 
for  the  destmction  of  the  millennia-old  territorial  integrity  of  this 
great  land. 

The  advent  of  Mahatma  Gandhi  to  national  politics  was 
an  event  of  historic  importance.  By  1920,  especially  after 
Lokmanya  Tilak’s  death,  he  became  the  unchallenged  leader  of 
the  Congress.  As  he  had  done  to  the  Home  Rule  League,  he  set 
about  re-organising  the  Congress  to  impart  dynamism  to  its 
politics.  At  the  Nagpur  session  in  December  1920,  the 
Congress  creed  was  radically  changed  under  his  inspiration.  Its 
political  goal,  as  it  was  originally  defined  read  thus:  “The  objects 
of  the  Indian  National  Congress  are  the  attainment  by  the 


K.  M.  Munshi 

people  of  India  of  a  system  of  government  similar  to  that 
enjoyed  by  the  self-governing  members  of  the  British  Empire 
and  a  participation  by  them  in  the  rights  and  responsibilities  of 
the  Empire  on  equal  terms  with  those  members.”  This  goal  was 
replaced  by  another  thus:  “The  object  of  the  Indian  National 
Congress  is  the  attainment  of  Swarajya  by  the  people  of  India 
by  all  legitimate  and  peaceful  means”*. 

The  amendment  was  of  great  significance  since  it  at  once 
transformed  the  Congress  from  an  upper-class  urban  club  into 
a  countrywide  mass  organisation  capable  of  going  deep  into  the 
heart  of  Indian  society,  the  village.  The  coming  of  Gandhi  to 
Indian  politics  had  upset  many  a  leader  and  had  led  to  the 
formation  of  the  National  Liberal  Federation  of  India  in 
November  1918.  The  change  in  the  Congress  constitution  gave 
a  further  fillip  to  the  exodus  from  its  ranks.  Munshi’ s  reactions 
to  the  Nagpur  decision  were  precisely  like  those  of  his  political 
chief,  Jinnah.  “The  Congress  session”,  he  wrote,  “looked  less 
like  a  political  body  than  a  religious  gathering  celebrating  the 
advent  of  a  Messiah.  Jinnah  (and,  if  my  memory  is  right,  also 
Malaviyaji  and  Khaparde)  stood  up  in  that  jeering  assembly  and 
opposed  the  official  resolution.  After  Nagpur,  led  by  Jinnah, 
about  twenty  of  us  left  the  Congress”. 

From  the  time  Jinnah  lost  the  Congress  platform,  his 
public  behaviour  became  unpredictable.  Munshi  has  written  that 
Jinnah  saw  him  in  the  Bar  Library  of  the  Bombay  High  court 
and  suggested  that  he  and  a  number  of  others  should  come 
together  to  oppose  the  British  Government’s  White  Paper  on 
the  Indian  constitutional  reforms.  There  were  preliminary 
discussions  among  some  of  the  leaders  but  nothing  came  out  of 

Mahatma  by  D.  G.  Tendulkar,  Volume  II,  Publications  Division, 
Government  of  India,  p.  19. 

# Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  p.  18. 

The  Exemplars 


them,  as  most  of  the  participants  were  uncompromisingly 
opposed  to  the  British  Prime  Minister,  Ramsay  MacDonald's 
Communal  Award.  With  the  deepening  of  the  European  crisis 
and  the  gathering  of  the  war  clouds  over  the  horizon,  Jinnah's 
political  fortune  took  an  entirely  new  turn.  In  1938,  Lord 
Lothian,  "a  brilliant  and  well-informed  statesman",  told  Munshi 
in  Bombay  that  the  British  were  building  up  Jinnah  as  they  were 
not  sure  that  the  Congress  would  support  them  in  the  event  of 
a  World  War. 

When  Munshi  met  the  Viceroy,  Lord  Linlithgow,  on  May 
26,  1939,  he  was  asked  to  tell  Mahatma  Gandhi  and  Sardar 
Patel  that  they  should  agree  to  the  introduction  of  federation 
under  the  Government  of  India  Act,  1935.  Munshi  writes:  "He 
(the  Viceroy)  was  emphatic  that,  much  as  he  disliked  it,  if  the 
federal  part  was  not  introduced  early  enough,  Jinnah  would 
disrupt  India.  I  sent  to  Gandhiji  a  report  of  the  interview"*. 
When  the  war  broke  out  in  September,  Jinnah  was  given 
unparalleled  inportance  by  the  British  and  succeeded  in 
destroying  India's  territorial  unity  if  only  to  spite  Congress 
leadership.  A  thoroughly  disillusioned  man,  Munshi  campaigned 
for  "Akhand  Hindustan"  or  undivided  India  in  the  vain  hope  that 
the  situation  could  be  somehow  saved. 

When  Gandhi  arrived  in  Bombay  in  January  1915,  after 
an  absence  in  South  Africa  for  nearly  twenty-two  years,  the  elite 
of  the  city  assmbled  to  greet  him.  Most  of  its  member  had 
become  inured  to  the  Western  style  of  living  and  expected  to 
see  the  great  man  in  well-cut  European  clothes  with  a  great 
capacity  for  platform  oratory  in  English.  What  they  saw  was, 
however,  entirely  different.  Munshi  writes:  "The  guest  arrived, 
barefooted,  dressed  in  a  short  dhoti,  and  a  Kathiawadi 

* Pilgrimage  to  Freedom,  Volume  1,  pp.  35,53. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

angarkha  and  sapha.  He  was  the  very  image  of  insignificance. 
Aristocracy  stood  shocked  beyond  words".  A  fashionable  lady 
in  the  audience  remarked  that  Gandhi  looked  like  her  tailor, 
Dhana!  While  Gandhi’s  decision  to  return  to  the  national  dress 
and  to  speak  only  the  language  of  the  people  and  not  English 
scandalised  the  white-collared  fraternity,  it  thrilled  the  younger 
generation*.  Convention  and  conformity  never  deflectecd 
Gandhi  from  his  own  course  of  action. 

Gandhi,  the  co-operator,  was  forced  to  become  Britain’s 
most  formidable  rebel  when  it  became  evident  that  Whitehall  had 
no  intention  at  all  of  surrendering  power  to  Indians.  He  gave  first 
proofs  of  the  effectiveness  of  his  leadership  in  1917  by  prevailing 
upon  the  British  planters  at  Champaran  in  Bihar  to  abandon  their 
long-established  practice  of  coercing  the  peasants  there  to  grow 
indigo  for  their  factories.  His  call  for  a  countrywide  opposition 
to  the  notorious  Rowlatt  Bills  in  March  1919  won  such  a 
tremendous  popular  response  that  it  caused  great  fury  to  Sir 
Michael  O’ Dwyer,  Governor  of  Punjab,  who  declared  that  there 
was  “another  force  greater  than  Gandhi’s  soul  force”.  The 
Jallianwala  tragedy  was  the  outcome  of  such  intolerance  even 
towards  a  totally  non-violent  movement.  The  Gandhi  led  civil 
disobedience  movement  of  1921-22,  directed  towards  securing 
redress  for  the  Khilafat  and  the  Punjab  wrongs,  lasted  for  some 
fourteen  months,  giving  fright  to  the  bureaucrats  in  India  and  the 
imperialists  in  England.  The  Mahatma’s  declaration  “Swaraj  in 
one  year”  caused  convulsions  in  diehard  hearts. 

Following  the  Labour  Party’s  assumption  of  power  in 
1929,  the  Viceroy,  Lord  Irwin,  announced  on  October  31,  that 
the  “natural  issue  of  India’s  constitutional  progress”  was  “the 
attainment  of  Dominion  Status”.  The  declaration  was  widely 

*7  Follow  the  Mahatma  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  p.  2. 

The  Exemplars 


welcomed  in  India,  especially  since  it  was  made  during 
Labour’s  regime,  rather  mistakenly  believed  to  be  in  favour  of 
the  Indian  demand.  It  was  hoped  that  Indian  aspirations  would 
at  last  find  their  fulfilment  because  Dominion  Status  was 
considered  to  be  equal  to  the  status  of  Britain  herself.  The 
Viceroy  was,  however,  forced  to  retrace  his  steps  when 
powerful  vested  interests  in  Britain  declared  their  implacable 
hostility  to  his  announcement. 

Prominent  Congress  leaders  of  the  younger  generation 
like  Jawaharlal  Nehru  and  Subhas  Chandra  Bose  were  anxious 
to  organise  a  retaliatory  movement.  At  its  annual  session  in 
December  1929,  presided  over  by  Nehru,  the  Congress 
solemnly  resolved  that  the  country  should  thenceforward 
observe  January  26  as  “Independence  Day”.  Every  year  from 
1930,  thousands  of  Indians  took  solemn  pledges  on  that  day  to 
liberate  their  motherland  from  foreign  rule.  The  Mahatma,  who 
was  pressed  by  mettlesome  youngmen  to  start  another  convulsive 
movement,  soon  responded  to  their  plea.  On  March  20,  1930, 
he  set  out  with  seventy-eight  members  of  his  ashram  on  his 
historic  march  to  Dandi,  a  seaside  resort  on  the  west  coast,  to 
break  the  salt  laws.  He  ceremonially  broke  the  salt  law  on 
April  5,  thus  giving  a  lead  to  his  countrymen  to  do  likewise 
on  an  extensive  scale. 

His  arrest  on  May  4  did  not  slow  down  the  movement. 
As  many  as  ninety  thousand  Satyagrahis,  many  of  them  beaten 
up  savagely,  were  seized  and  sent  to  prison.  Neither  Irwin,  the 
“Christian  Viceroy”,  nor  India’s  “well-wishers”  in  the  Labour 
Government  could  prevent  the  bureaucratic  barbarism.  The 
Viceroy  and  the  Governors  of  many  provinces  were  both 
surprised  and  alarmed  at  the  dimensions  of  the  movement. 
Military  experts  also  viewed  the  situation  with  concern.  The 
shadows  were  thus  steadily  lengthening  on  an  Empire  in  which 


K.  M.  Munshi 

the  sun  had  never  set  before.  Earlier,  in  1928,  Gandhi  had 
shown  in  the  famous  Bardoli  Satyagraha,  to  which  reference  will 
be  made  at  some  length  in  the  following  pages,  that  he  could 
mould  heroes  out  of  clay. 

Many  thinking  persons,  some  of  them  none  too  friendly 
towards  India,  have  endorsed  the  Gandhian  methods.  The 
greatness  of  Gandhi’s  achievement  in  overcoming  the  forces  of 
terrorism  should  not,  says  an  authority,  be  underestimated 
because  of  the  completeness  of  its  success.  Since  they  were 
founded  on  moral  principles,  his  campaigns  ought  to  be 
regarded  as  extra  rather  than  as  anti-constitutional.  The 
Mahatma  “brought  in  the  moral  law  to  supplement  rather  than 
supplant  official  law,  and  thus  saved  India  during  the  British 
period  from  large-scale  terrorism,  massacre,  and  race-hatred”*. 
The  joint  authors  of  a  well  known  book,  by  no  means 
sympathetic  to  Gandhi,  write:  “Perhaps  his  achievement  which 
in  the  long  run  will  be  found  to  have  had  the  most  lasting  results 
is  the  revival  of  self  confidence  in  the  average  India”#. 

Munshi  was  a  convinced  constitutionalist.  He  would 
not  have  given  up  the  legal  profession  and  made  common 
cause  with  the  Mahatma  if  he  had  persuaded  himself  that  the 
Gandhian  methods  would  heavily  mortgage  the  future  of  his 
motherland.  The  1928  Bardoli  dispute  was  entirely  agrarian 
without  any  political  implications.  Munshi,  as  a  non-Congress 
member  of  the  Bombay  legislature,  and  many  others  made 
the  most  earnest  efforts  to  persuade  the  authorities  including 
the  Governor,  to  promote  a  settlement  strictly  on  merits  but 
their  plea  fell  on  deaf  ears.  The  Bardoli  episode  clinched  the 

*The  Oxford  History  of  India,  1958,  p.  765. 

#  India  and  Democracy  by  Sir  George  Schuster  and  Guy  Wint 
Macmillan,  1941,  p.  121. 

The  Exemplars 


issue  for  Munshi  who  participated  in  most  of  the  subsequent 
popular  movements,  inviting  arrest  and  imprisonment  on  several 
occasions.  His  admiration  for  Gandhi  grew  with  the  years  and 
his  book  I  Follow  the  Mahatma ,  published  in  1940,  was  a 
sequel  to  his  conversion. 

For  men  like  Munshi,  it  was  a  mental  torture  to  keep 
away  from  the  popular  movement.  While  Bardoli  converted  him 
to  Gandhism,  the  Mahatma’s  “immortal”  march  to  Dandi 
decided  him  to  go  to  the  world’s  end  with  the  great  leader. 
Writing  to  Gandhi  on  April  14,  1930,  he  said:  “I  am  now 
offering  my  services,  feeble  as  they  are,  to  you.  Perhaps 
delicate  health  may  make  it  difficult  for  me  to  bear  the  strenuous 
life  of  hardships  and  comparative  poverty  which  I  will  have  to 
face,  but  when  the  whole  of  Gujarat  and  with  it  India  has  started 
on  a  glorious  march  to  martyrdom,  I,  who  dreamt  of  their 
greatness  through  my  literary  efforts,  cannot  stand  by  and  look 
on”.  When  Munshi  and  Abbas  Tyabji  met  him  later,  the 
Mahatma  remarked  with  a  smile:  “Both  of  you  have  come  back 
from  your  Vanavasa  (life  in  the  forest)!”  Munshi  has  recorded 
that  Gandhi’s  was  a  curious  comment,  seeing  that  he  had  led  a 
very  successful  life.  He  never  accepted  everything  the  Mahatma 
said  as  a  mandate  from  heaven.  In  later  years,  he  had  to  part 
company  with  his  leader  again,  but  his  esteem  for  the  Mahatma 
remained'  undiminished.  This  is  how  he  viewed  his  exemplar: 
“Through  my  intimate  contact  with  Gandhiji  I  was  to  discover 
later  that  if  he  was  a  statesman  he  was  also  a  practical  mystic; 
an  apostle  of  the  moral  order;  a  prophet  who  gave  us  a  vision 
of  a  non-violent  world.  When  a  personality  of  such  a  stature 
descends  on  a  people,  he  becomes  an  avalanche  overwhelming 
every  resistance”. 

Another  person  who  profoundly  influenced  Munshi ’s 
political  life  was  Sardar  Vallabhbhai  Patel.  The  combination 


K.  M.  Munshi 

between  Vallabhbhai  and  Gandhi  produced  momentous  results 
during  the  pre-independence  period.  Belatedly  becoming  a 
Barrister,  Vallabhabhai  had  settled  down  to  a  lucrative  practice 
at  Ahmedabad.  For  sometime  he  was  sceptical  about  Gandhi’s 
relevance  to  Indian  politics  but  the  Mahatma’s  success  in  the 
Champaran  episode  convinced  him  that  the  newcomer  was  not 
just  a  platform  orator  but  a  man  of  action  par  excellence. 
When  Gandhi  assumed  the  Presidentship  of  the  Gujarat  Sabha, 
founded  in  1884,  he  at  once  put  an  end  to  the  long  phase  of 
supplication  that  had  marked  its  activities.  Vallabhbhai  became 
an  active  member  of  the  Gujarat  Sabha  and  got  many 
opportunities  to  show  the  British  bureaucrats  their  real  place. 
With  the  Mahatma’s  support,  he  succeeded  in  compelling  the 
Government  to  suppress  the  pernicious  practice  of  forced 
labour  for  officers  touring  villages  on  duty. 

Vallabhbhai  rose  to  the  pinnacle  of  popularity  in  Gujarat  by 
incessantly  working  among  the  people.  He  was  as  well-known  as 
the  Mahatma  in  that  region  and  was  better  known  in  some  of  its 
parts.  He  was  always  to  the  fore  whenever  the  popular  cause 
needed  to  be  championed.  His  major  achievement  in  the  pre¬ 
independence  period  was  his  leadership  of  the  Bardoli  Satyagraha 
of  1928.  Bardoli  is  a  taluka  in  Gujarat.  It  was  the  practice  of  the 
Bombay  Government  to  revise  the  land  revenue  assessment  at 
the  end  of  thirty  years  after  making  a  survey.  The  revision  became 
due  in  1926  and  the  settlement  work  was  entrusted  to  an  Indian 
officer  who  did  not  know  much  about  it.  After  a  perfunctory 
survey  of  the  economic  condition  of  the  taluka  and  on  the  strength 
of  faulty  statistics,  he  recommended  a  sharp  increase  in  the 
assessment.  The  Settlement  Commissioner,  a  Briton,  was  equally 
negligent  in  fulfilling  his  responsibilities.  The  Government  also 
handled  the  case  with  ineptitude  and  decided  that  the  prevailing 
levy  should  be  raised  by  22  per  cent.  The  peasants  protested 
against  the  additional  impost  and  refused  to  pay  it. 

The  Exemplars 


Munshi,  who  was  watching  the  Bardoli  developments 
with  deep  concern,  decided  to  tell  the  Governor  of  Bombay,  Sir 
Leslie  Wilson,  how  wrong  his  Government’s  policy  was.  In 
1926,  he  had  been  elected  to  the  Bombay  Legislative  Council 
as  an  Independent  and  felt  called  upon  as  a  repressentative  of 
the  people,  to  address  the  head  of  the  Government  on  an  issue 
of  vital  public  importance.  He  was  prompted  to  do  so  by  the 
high-handed  methods  that  were  being  employed  to  collect  the 
enhanced  assessment  from  the  Bardoli  peasants.  Writing  to  the 
Governor  on  May  27,  1928,  he  called  his  attention  to  the  fact 
that  the  peasants  asked  for  nothing  more  than  an  independent 
re-enquiry  to  make  sure  whether  the  settlement  work  had  been 
done  properly  or  not.  He  strongly  protested  against  the 
employment  of  Pathans,  to  intimidate  the  peace-loving  and  law- 
abiding  ryots  into  submission.  He  also  complained  against  “the 
communal  aspect  which  the  payment  of  dues  is  made  to 
assume”  and  against  the  appointment  of  Special  Magistrates  to 
collect  the  enhanced  revenue.  The  Governor’s  reply  of  May  29 
added  insult  to  injury.  He  charged  that  a  definite  attempt  was 
“being  made  to  coerce  Government  by  the  use  of  the  weapon 
of  civil  disobedience”.  The  Government,  he  asserted,  was 
bound  to  take  up  the  challenge. 

After  all  attempts  by  Munshi  and  other  “constitutionally- 
minded”  people  to  promote  a  settlement  had  failed  and  when 
the  Government  gave  orders  to  the  village  officers  to  start 
collecting  the  increased  levy  from  February  5, 1928,  Vallabhbhai 
decided  to  enter  the  fray  in  response  to  the  Bardoli  peasants’ 
earnest  request.  He  told  them  that  it  would  be  a  grim  struggle 
in  which  they  were  likely  to  lose  their  all.  He  wrote  a  polite 
letter  to  the  Governor  on  February  6,  asking  for  an  impartial 
re-examination  of  the  issue.  Bureaucratic  arrogance  was  evident 
in  the  reply  sent  by  a  subordinate  officer.  The  Commissioner  of 
the  Northern  Division  had  the  audacity  to  describe  men  like 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Vallabhbhai  as  “a  swarm  of  agitators  living  on  the  people  of 
Bardoli”.  Mahatma  Gandhi  was  provoked  into  asking  what  sort 
of  perversity  it  was  which  led  an  alien  Government  to  call 
leaders  like  Vallabhbhai  foreigners  to  Bardoli. 

Munshi  felt  that  his  style  of  living  in  Bombay  was 
unpardonable  when  an  inferno  was  raging  in  one  part  of  his 
dearly-loved  Gujarat.  He  decided  to  go  to  Bardoli  and  see 
things  for  himself.  He  had  promised  the  Governor  that  he  would 
do  so  and  report  to  him  about  the  state  of  affairs  there  strictly 
as  a  “constitutionalist”.  He  accordingly  visited  the  taluka  on  June 
16.  Conveying  to  the  Governor  his  impressions  about  the 
Bardoli  struggle,  he  maintained  that  the  men  who  led  it  had  no 
intention  at  all  of  importing  politics  into  it.  The  popular  protest 
was  complete  and  spontaneous.  In  the  taluka,  with  its  130 
villages,  69  out  of  90  patels  and  11  out  of  15  talatis  had 
resigned.  Munshi  further  wrote:  “In  a  few  villages  which  I  visited 
not  a  man  or  woman,  was  either  sorry  for  the  attitude  or  shaken 
in  the  faith  which  he  or  she  had  adopted”.  Munshi’s 
correspondence  with  Sir  Leslie  Wilson  had  a  strong  impact  on 
informed  opinion.  Commenting  on  Munshi’s  last  letter  to  the 
Governor,  Mahadev  Desai,  the  Secretary  of  Mahatma  Gandhi, 
wrote:  “This  letter  sent  a  thrill  through  the  hearts  of  all  who  had 
any  fellow-feeling  for  their  compatriots  and  placed  the  Bardoli 
question  in  the  forefront  of  all  questions  engaging 
public  attention”. 

The  Bardoli  episode  drew  Munshi  closer  to  the  Mahatma 
and  the  Sardar.  It  became  impossible  for  him  to  keep  himself 
away  from  them,  especially  when  a  great  popular  movement 
had  been  launched  for  national  liberation.  He  rejoined  the 
Congress  on  April  14,  1930,  and  was  arrested  fourteen  days 
later.  He  was  sentenced  to  six  months’  imprisonment  and  a  fine 
of  Rs.  300  for  taking  part  in  the  Salt  Satyagraha  and  was  sent 

The  Exemplars 


to  Yeravda  Central  Prison  in  Poona  During  this  period,  Sir  Tej 
Bahadur  Sapru  and  M.R.  Jayakar  visited  the  prison  to  have 
discussions  with  Gandhi  to  promote  an  understanding  with  the 
Irwin  Government.  Nothing  came  out  of  the  move  immediately. 

The  Sardar’s  capabilities  as  an  organiser  and  disciplin¬ 
arian  became  more  widely  known  when  the  Congress  decided  to 
form  its  ministries  in  a  majority  of  British  Indian  provinces  in  1937 
under  the  Government  of  India  Act  of  1935.  His  role  as  the 
Chairman  of  the  Congress  Parliamentary  Sub-Committee  was 
unenviable,  but  he  played  it  with  superb  self-confidence  and 
impartiality.  K.  F.  Nariman,  a  front-rank  Congress  leader  of 
Bombay,  who  had  won  a  great  reputation  as  a  fearless  fighter  of 
official  corruption,  nursed  a  grievance  against  the  Sardar  on  the 
ground  that  he  was  prevented  from  becoming  the  Premier  of 
Bombay  by  rejecting  him  as  the  leader  of  the  Congress  legislature 
party.  The  part  played  by  him  in  1934  stood  against  him  on  this 
occasion.  In  that  year,  he  and  Dr.  G.  V.  Deshmukh  had  been 
chosen  as  Congress  candidates  to  contest  two  seats  in  the 
Legislative  Assembly  from  the  city  of  Bombay.  The  electoral  rolls 
were  published  on  July  14  and  nominations  were  invited  till  the 
afternoon  of  October  1 1 .  While  Dr.  Deshmukh  took  the  trouble 
of  verifying  his  eligibility,  Nariman  did  not,  although  he  was 
expressly  asked  to  do  so,  especially  when  he  and  his  brother 
bore  the  same  initials.  As  late  as  October  10,  he  told  a  surprised 
Sardar,  who  was  about  to  leave  for  Wardha,  that  he 
was  debarred  from  contesting  the  elections.  Much  against 
Munshi’s  will,  the  Sardar  persuaded  him  to  step  into  the  breach. 
Nariman’s  strange  behaviour  was  attributed  to  his  friendship  for 
the  rival  candidate,  Sir  Cowasji  Jehangir,  whose  victory  he 
probably  wanted  to  ensure.  The  Sardar  could  not  easily  forget 
the  defeat  of  the  Congress  candidate. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Overcoming  its  revulsion  for  the  Act  of  1935,  the 
Congress  assumed  the  responsibilities  of  government  in  eight 
out  of  the  eleven  British  Indian  provinces.  B.  G.  Kher  became 
the  Premier  of  Bombay  province,  with  Munshi  holding  the  key 
Home  portfolio.  How  Munshi  acquitted  himself  as  a  Minister 
and  grappled  with  the  communal  problem  will  be  discussed  in 
a  subsequent  chapter.  He  says  that  the  Sardar  was  the  main 
source  of  his  strength  during  that  period.  They  were  together  in 
the  Yeravda  Prison  in  1940-41  and  when  Munshi  fell  ill,  the 
senior  man  looked  after  him  with  “almost  maternal  care”.  They 
had  come  to  understand  each  other  “instinctively”.  Munshi  was 
deeply  impressed  with  the  Sardar  because  he  was  a  man  of 
determination  and  was  single-minded  in  the  pursuit  of  his  goal. 
During  the  pre-independence  period,  the  Sardar  gave  his 
unquestioning  loyalty  to  the  Mahatma  because  he  convinced 
that  disciplined  behaviour  was  the  sine  qua  non  of  success. 

To  him  the  cause  was  always  greater  than  the  man.  He  was 
made  of  a  sterner  stuff  which  ensured  that  the  Congress  remained 
a  disciplined  organisation  during  the  momentous  nineteen  thirties 
and  forties.  His  personality  was  a  power  and  there  was  about 
him  a  force  of  mind  and  down-rightness  which  greatly  appealed 
to  the  honest  and  caused  dismay  to  the  guilty.  It  could  be  said  of 
him,  as  it  was  said  of  a  great  Roman,  that  it  was  harder  for  him 
to  utter  threats  than  to  execute  them.  And  yet  he  was  the  most 
generous  and  considerate  man.  “To  work  under  Sardar”,  says 
Munshi,  “had  been  always  a  privilege  and  pleasure,  for  above  all 
he  was  a  wise  and  generous  chief’. 


Swaraj  Without  Substance 

S  WE  SAW  IN  AN  earlier  chapter,  the  Montagu 

il  Chelmsford  proposals,  which  were  churned  into  the 
Government  of  India  Act  of  1919,  were  most  disappointing. 
Besides  causing  dissatisfaction  even  to  moderatelndian  opinion, 
the  curious  structure  of  the  constitutional  scheme  ensured  its 
failure.  Disillusionment  soon  came  to  those  who  had  set  out  to 
give  it  an  honest  trial.  Sir  C.Y.Chintamani,  a  liberal  statesman  of 
great  distinction,  who  had  become  a  Minister  in  the  United 
Provinces  under  the  new  dispensation,  narrated  his  experience 
on  May  20,  1923.  He  said:  “At  the  top  there  is  the  Governor 
whose  relation  to  his  Ministers  is  not  the  true  relation  of  the 
Governor  in  the  self-governing  Dominions  to  his  Ministers  but 
the  relation  of  a  superior  authority  in  whom  much  reserve  power 
is  vested”.  Another  co-operating  Indian,  Sir  A.P.Patro,  a 
Madras  Minister,  complained  in  June  1924  that  the  Ministers 
were  so  “completely  under  the  power  of  the  Governor”  that 
there  was  no  room  for  the  development  of  “joint  and  corporate 
responsibility  under  the  circumstances”. 

This  is  not  surprising  because  the  British  Government 
never  intended  to  leave  India  until  the  compulsions  of  the 
second  world  war  forced  it  to  give  up  its  obstinacy.  The  British 
bureaucracy  in  India  was  notoriously  hostile  to  Indian  political 
aspirations.  Munshi,  who  entered  the  Bombay  Legislative 
Council  in  1926,  did  not  take  long  to  realise  that  the 
legislatures  under  the  Act  of  1919  were  little  more  than 


K.  M.  Munshi 

consultative,  deliberative  and  advisory  bodies.  His  visit  to  Simla 
convinced  him  that  the  bureaucracy  was  all  powerful  in  this 
country.  “Experience”  he  wrote,  “revealed  one  thing:  the 
bureaucracy  was  in  all  matters  inflexibly  hostelile  to  nationalist 
Indians”.  Only  assertive  Governors  General  could  really  claim 
to  govern  the  country.  Others  merely  allowed  themselves  to  be 
guided  by  the  “men  on  the  spot”.  He  described  Lord  Irwin, 
whose  Viceroyalty  from  1926  to  1931  was  marked  by  epoch- 
making  events,  as  the  fly  on  the  wheel  which  thought  that  it 
turned  the  official  machine. 

Birkenhead  was  an  extremely  alert  Secretary  of  State  for 
India.  The  Act  of  1919  provided  for  an  investigation  into  the 
constitutional  future  of  the  country  at  the  end  of  every  ten 
year  period.  The  Noble  Lord  felt  that  it  would  be  disastrous  to 
Britain’s  imperial  interests  if  such  an  inquiry  was  to  be 
authorised  by  the  so-called  radical  British  Labour  Party  when  it 
came  into  power.  This  able  but  diehard  statesman  apprehended 
a  Bolshy  behind  every  lamp-post  and  at  every  street  comer! 
He,  therefore,  used  all  the  resources  of  conservatism  in 
selecting  the  leader  of  the  Statutory  Commission  to  sit  in 
judgment  on  India’s  fitness  for  self-rule.  It  was  to  be  an  all- 
White  Commission,  presided  over  by  an  ardent  worshipper  at 
the  shrine  of  imperialism. 

Sir  John  Simon,  upon  whom  the  choice  of  Chairmanship 
fell,  was  a  brilliant  advocate  who  had  a  reputation  as  the  most 
expensive  lawyer  of  his  country.  He  was  given  six  colleagues,  all 
of  whom  belonged  to  the  category  of  Shelley’s  “illustrious 
obscure”.  Only  one  of  them,  Clement,  Attlee,  eventually  emerged 
from  obscurity  to  become  his  country’s  Labour  Prime  Minister. 
Simon  was  a  notorious  reactionary.  His  conservatism  repelled 
most  of  his  forward-looking  countrymen. 

Swaraj  Without  Substance 


His  Commission,  whose  appointment  was  announced  in 
November  1927,  arrived  in  India  in  February  1928  for  a 
prehminary  investigation  and  to  secure  Indian  collaboration  in  its 
undertaking.  Simon’s  suggestion  for  a  “joint  free  conference” 
with  Indian  legislators  was  categorically  rejected  by  the  Central 
Legislative  Assembly  which  refused  to  cooperate  with  the 
Commission  except  on  equal  terms.  There  was  countrywide 
opposition  to  the  foreign  investigators  who  were  greeted  with  a 
forest  of  funereal  banners  wherever  they  went.  The  Commission’s 
second  visit,  which  lasted  from  October  11,  1928  to  April  13, 
1929,  drove  the  country  into  a  minor  holocaust.  Many 
respected  leaders  were  insulted  and  manhandled  by  the  police 
when  they  led  protest  demonstrations.  The  great  Punjab  leader, 
Lala  Lajpat  Rai,  was  brutally  assaulted  by  the  police  which 
ended  in  his  death. 

The  report  of  the  Commission,  published  in  May  1930, 
faithfully  reflected  the  mind  of  its  Chairman.  It  is  precisely 
because  it  gave  away  nothing  that  it  was  hailed  as  a  “constitutional 
masterpiece”.  The  Commission  recommended  the  abolition  of 
the  hated  system  of  dyarchy  but  this  fact  did  not  improve  the 
position  of  the  ministers  who  were  condemned  to  remain 
subservient  to  the  Governor  as  before.  The  Governor  should 
indeed  have  an  unchallenged  right  to  take  over  the  administration 
of  his  province  and  should  be  further  empowered  to  “restore 
rejected  demands  for  grants,  and  to  certify  legislation  if  in  his 
opinion  it  is  essential  for  any  interest  in  the  province”.  The 
provinces  were  thus  to  have  a  kind  of  guided  democracy — a 
“privilege”  that  was  firmly  denied  to  the  Centre  which  was  to 
remain  unsullied  by  the  taint  of  popular  control  over  it.  “Our  own 
view”,  the  Commission  said,  “is  that,  until  the  provinces  of  India 
have  established  themselves,  by  the  working  of  unitary  governments 
as  self  governing  units,  the  ultimate  form  which  the  Central 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Government  of  India  will  take  cannot  be  determined”.*  ‘The  one 
good  thing  about  this  reactionary  report  is  that  it  became  out  of 
date  even  before  its  publication,  causing  deep  mortification  to  its 
chief  author. 

The  fall  of  the  Conservative  ministry  and  the  advent  of 
Labour  to  power  in  England  in  May  1929,  with  Ramsay 
MacDonald  as  Prime  Minister  and  Wedgwood  Benn  as 
Secretary  of  State  for  India,  kindled  the  hope  in  this  country 
that  the  new  British  rulers  would  respond  favourably  to  Indian 
political  aspirations.  On  his  return  from  mid-term  leave,  the 
Viceroy  announced  on  October  31,  1929,  that  he  had  been 
authorised  to  state  clearly  that  in  the  judgment  of  the  British 
Government  “it  is  implicit  in  the  declaration  of  1917  that  the 
natural  issue  of  India’s  constitutional  progress,  as  there 
contemplated,  is  the  attainment  of  Dominion  Status”.  Indian 
leaders  interpreted  the  announcement  as  meaning  that  the 
proposed  London  conference  would  be  held  not  to  discuss 
when  Dominion  Status  would  be  given  to  India,  but  to  frame  a 
constitution  conferring  that  status  on  her.  The  deliberations  there 
would  be  simple  and  straightforward  in  order  to  settle  the  terms 
of  Indian  freedom. 

The  Irwin  announcement  created  a  mighty  furore  in 
England.  Whitehall  lost  no  time  in  going  back  on  its  own 
commitment.  The  Viceroy  laid  at  rest  all  speculations  about  his 
October  announcement  when  he  told  the  Legislative  Assembly 
in  January  1930  that  “the  assertion  of  a  goal  is  of  necessity  a 
different  thing  from  the  goal’s  attainment.  No  sensible  traveller 
would  feel  that  the  clear  definition  of  his  destination  was  the 
same  thing  as  the  completion  of  his  journey”. 

* Report  of  the  Indian  Statutory  Commission  (Simon  Commission), 
Volume  II,  Government  of  India,  Calcutta,  1930,  para  17,  p.  143. 

Swaraj  Without  Substance 


Mahatma  Gandhi  was  prepared  to  accept  a  variant  of 
complete  independence  if  it  meant  a  substantial  devolution  of 
authority  to  Indian  hands.  Such  conciliatory  attitude  produced 
no  immediate  results,  but  the  deadlock  was  broken  in  the 
following  year  when  Gandhi  and  Irwin  held  prolonged  discussions 
on  the  Indian  problem.  The  outcome  of  the  talks  was  a  pact 
between  the  two,  signed  on  March  5,  1931.  The  terms  of  the 
agreement  revealed  that  as  a  political  negotiator  the  Mahatma 
could  be  over-generous.  He  was  neatly  outmanoeuvred  by  the 
Viceroy  and  heartily  abused  by  that  sublime  reactionary, 
Winston  Churchill,  who  called  him  a  “half-naked”  and  “seditious 
fakir”.  Gandhi,  however,  never  felt  discomfited  because  he 
knew  that  his  cause  was  not  only  just  but  invincible.  Munshi 
viewed  the  Pact  realistically.  He  wrote:  “It  was  the  greatest 
event  in  Indian  history  for  centuries.  An  Indian  representing  the 
whole  of  India  had  entered  into  an  agreement  as  a  High 
Contracting  Party  with  the  representative  of  the  greatest  Empire 
in  modem  times”. 

On  Irwin’s  retirement,  he  was  succeeded  to  the  Indian 
Viceroyalty  by  Lord  Willingdon  in  April  1931.  Willingdon  had 
earlier  put  in  long  service  in  this  country  as  Governor  of 
Bombay  and  Madras  and  was  sixty-five  years  old  when  he 
assumed  the  new  office.  The  injudicious  recommendation  of  a 
Socialist  successor  to  Irwin  by  the  Labour  Prime  Minister  vastly 
improved  the  chances  of  this  old  man  for  that  exalted  position. 
In  dealing  with  the  Indian  political  situation,  the  Viceroy 
addressed  himself  to  the  achievement  of  two  objectives:  first,  to 
reduce  the  Gandhi-Irwin  Pact  to  a  dead-letter  by  reviving 
official  repression  and,  secondly,  to  manage  somehow  to  send 
Gandhi  to  London  to  attend  the  second  session  of  the  Indian 
Round  Table  Conference.  The  second  goal  was  as  important  as 
the  first,  from  the  imperialist  point  of  view.  It  was  felt  that 
Congress  absence  from  such  important  deliberations  would 


K.  M.  Munshi 

greatly  depreciate  their  value.  More  importantly,  its  presence 
was  considered  essential  to  demonstrate  to  a  watching  world 
India’s  “unfitness”  for  self-rule  by  means  of  a  carefully- 
contrived  fiasco  of  the  talks. 

The  first  Round  Table  Conference,  which  began  on 
November  12,  1930,  and  dispersed  on  January  19,  1931, 
was,  like  its  two  successors,  foredoomed  to  fail.  The 
Conservatives,  whose  influence  over  their’  national  affairs  was 
always  dominant,  no  matter  whether  they  were  in  office  or  not, 
had  made  a  firm  resolution  not  to  allow  any  worthwhile  transfer 
of  power  to  Indians.  At  the  second  Round  Table  Confernce  a 
Federal  Structure  Committee  was  set  up  to  examine  the 
feasibility  of  framing  a  federal  constitution  for  india.  Munshi 
prepared  a  note,  making  a  critical  assessment  of  the  system, 
and  submitted  it  to  Mahatma  Gandhi.  His  conception  of 
federation  was,  however,  fundamentally  different  from  that 
advocated  by  the  Conservative  diehards  and  their  faithful  ally, 
the  Princely  Order.  He  envisaged  a  federal  government  based 
on  real  power.  It  must  be  a  government  armed  with  plenary 
powers  to  perform  all  the  functions  pertaining  to  a  truly  national 
government.  At  a  dinner  party  in  Bombay  the  Maharaja  of 
Bikaner  invited  him  to  give  his  views  on  the  subject.  Munshi 
explained  to  his  audience  that  if  the  rulers  of  the  States  were 
given  a  well-defined  share  in  the  federal  government,  they 
should  cease  to  insist  that  thay  were  “sovereign”  entities. 

Although  the  first  London  conference  on  India  was 
marked  by  solemn  speeches  and  declarations,  its  outcome  was 
singularly  sterile.  Mahatma  Gandhi  had  no  illusions  that  his 
presence  in  the  second  round  of  talks,  which  began  on 
September  7  and  ended  on  December  10,  1931,  would  be 
productive.  The  Labour  Government,  even  if  it  was  sincere, 
could  not  do  much  on  the  Indian  question.  It  would  have  been 

Swaraj  Without  Substance 


brought  down  if  it  had  ignored  Conservative  prejudices. 
Meanwhile,  a  grave  financial  crisis  led  to  the  replacement  of  that 
Government  by  a  coalition  of  three  parties,  with  the  turncoat 
Ramsay  MacDonald  continuing  as  the  Prime  Minister  and  Sir 
Samuel  Hoare  (later  Lord  Temple  wood)  taking  the  place  of 
Wedgwood  Benn  in  the  India  Office. 

Gandhi  returned  to  India,  reaching  Bombay  on  December 
28,  1931.  The  spectacle  that  confronted  him  in  the  country  was 
forbidding.  Willingdon  had  made  the  most  irresponsible  use  of 
his  special  powers  in  an  attempt  to  suppress  Indian  national 
spirit.  Hoare,  the  Secretary  of  State,  felt  constrained  to  admit 
that  “the  Ordinances  that  we  have  approved  are  very  drastic 
and  severe.  They  cover  almost  every  activity  of  Indian  life”. 
Repression  is  a  standard  technique  employed  by  all  tyrants  and 
oppressors,  but  in  most  cases  it  has  proved  singularly  ineffective. 
This  truth  was  confirmed  in  India,  as  it  was  in  Ireland.  There 
was  always  a  sizable  number  of  men  and  women  in  the  country 
who  were  prepared  to  invite  any  suffering  by  following  the 
Mahatma.  On  the  evening  of  January  3, 1932,  Munshi’s  mother, 
Tapibehn,  met  Gandhi  at  his  prayer  meeting.  When  he  asked 
her  whether  she  would  agree  to  her  son  going  to  jail,  she 
promptly  replied:  “I  have  entrusted  my  son  to  you”.  She  was 
old  and  infirm  and  yet  she  cheerfully  told  her  son:  “I  won’t  die 
till  you  return”. 

Indian  interest  in  the  London  talks  had  reached  the 
vanishing-point  when  the  third  and  last  Round  Table  Conference 
assembled  there  on  November  17,  1932.  The  session  was  brief 
and  ended  on  December  24.  Its  poor  credibility  was  further 
eroded  by  the  absence  from  the  Conference  Table  of  the  Indian 
National  Congress  and  the  British  Labour  Party.  The  decisions 
taken  at  the  three  Round  Table  Conferences  were  summarised 
and  published  as  White  Paper  on  March  15,  1933.  A  powerful 


K.  M.  Munshi 

team  of  no-changers,  drawn  from  both  Houses  of  British 
Parliament  and  led  by  Lord  Linlithgow,  the  future  Viceroy  of 
India,  was  detailed  to  institute  a  searching  scrutiny  into  the 
provisions  of  the  White  Paper  and  to  tighten  up  the  loose  ends 
that  might  have  been  inadvertently  left  in  the  document  by  way 
of  concessions  to  India.  The  Joint  Parliamentary  Committee,  as 
it  was  called,  was  indeed  a  redundant  body  because  by  then  the 
Tories  had  come  into  power.  Twenty-seven  persons  from 
British  and  Princely  India  were  associated  with  the  Joint 
Committee  as  assessors  whose  views  were  heard  but  ignored. 
The  Committee  declared  pontifically  that  “responsible  government 
is  not  an  automatic  device  which  can  be  manufactured  to 
specification.  It  is  not  even  a  machine  which  will  mn  on  motive- 
power  of  its  own”. 

The  Government  of  India  Act,  1935,  Britain’s  last  essay 
in  constitution-making  for  this  country,  furnishes  a  conspicuous 
example  of  a  mountain  labouring  a  mole.  The  Act  was  a 
counterfeit  of  Dominion  Status.  Six  out  of  the  eleven  provinces 
were  given  bicameral  legislatures,  those  of  the  rest  being 
unicameral.  The  Lothian  Committee  rejected  the  principle  of 
manhood  suffrage  and  recommended  the  enfranchisement  of 
some  30  million  people.  The  dual  system  of  government, 
popularised  by  Lionel  Curtis  and  incorporated  in  the  Act  of 
1919,  was  done  away  with,  discretionary  and  overriding 
powers  of  the  Governor  were,  however,  retained.  The  Ministers 
could  not  claim  the  right  to  tender  advice  to  him  in  the  exercise 
of  his  discretionary  powers.  It  was  perfectly  open  to  him  to 
render  the  working  of  even  such  a  gravely  attenuated  form  of 
provincial  autonomy  nugatory  if  he  considered  such  a  course  of 
action  necessary. 

The  Centre  was  saddled  with  a  unique  form  of  federation, 
the  federating  units  being  the  eleven  British  Indian  provinces  and 

Swaraj  Without  Substance 


a  medley  of  principalities,  numbering  some  five  hundred.  In  the 
bicameral  federal  legislature,  the  States  were  given  125  seats  in 
the  Lower  House  or  one-third  of  its  total  strength  and  104  seats 
in  the  Upper  House  or  two-fifth  of  its  strength.  The  whole  idea 
behind  the  provision  for  the  States’  accession  to  the  federation 
was,  as  we  shall  see  in  a  subsequent  chapter,  to  give  them  a 
decisive  voice  in  the  government  and  thus  ensure  the  permanence 
of  the  British  Raj  in  this  country.  The  principle  of  dyarchy  or 
divided  responsibility  was  resurrected  for  the  working  of  the 
federal  executive.  Defence,  external  affairs  and  ecclesiastical 
administration  belonged  to  the  exclusive  jurisdiction  of  the 
Governor-General.  In  addition,  he  was  armed  with  discretionary 
powers  in  order  to  fulfil  his  “special  responsibilities”.  His  role  as 
the  Grand  Moghul  of  the  British  Raj  in  India  remained 
unaffected.  And  yet  L.S.  Amery,  who  became  Secretary  of 
State  for  India  in  Churchill’s  wartime  Ministry,  declared  that  this 
thoroughly  illiberal  document  represented  “a  remarkable  feat  of 
constructive  statesmanship”.  In  India,  nearly  every  important 
section  of  opinion  categorically  rejected  the  new  statute. 

Nevertheless,  the  Congress  decided  to  enter  the 
constitutional  arena  to  gain  the  two-fold  objective  of  drawing 
the  maximum  benefit  from  the  provincial  administration  and  of 
combating  the  federal  scheme.  Munshi  was  in  whole-hearted 
agreement  with  this  decision.  He  was  firmly  opposed  to  the 
boycott  of  legislatures  and  was  convinced  that  “training  through 
parliamentary  or  administrative  work  was  as  important  in  our 
struggle  for  freedom  as  propaganda  or  constructive  work 
outside”.  He  saw  no  consistency  in  the  Congress  decision  “to 
combat  the  Act  and  the  policy  underlying  it”  and  its  willingness 
to  accept  the  responsibilities  of  government  under  its  provisions. 
He  wrote:  “In  moments  of  action,  the  Congress  had  always 
seesawed  between  high  idealism  and  stem  realism.  And  their 
coordination  had  been  possible  only  by  the-  marvellous  powers 


K.  M.  Munshi 

which  Gandhiji  possessed  of  evolving  formulas”.  He  believed 
that,  despite  its  limitations,  the  new  constitution  gave  “considerable 
powers  to  the  ministries  within  the  restricted  provincial  sphere”.* 

Ministries  could  not  be  formed  without  fighting  and  winning 
the  elections,  for  which  organisation  was  necessary.  Munshi 
decided  to  play  an  active  role  in  reviving  the  Swaraj  Party. 
Immediately  on  his  release  from  the  Bijapur  prison  in  Karnataka 
in  December  1933,  he  rushed  to  Madras  where  Mahatma 
Gandhi  had  gone  to  apprise  him  of  his  views  on  office  acceptance 
and  to  win  his  consent  for  the  move.  While  in  Madras  he  was  the 
guest  of  Rangaswamy  Ayyangar,  the  talented  Editor  of  the 
Swadesamitran  and  later  of  The  Hindu.  Ayyangar  was  in  entire 
agreement  with  his  guest  on  the  need  for  bringing  the  Swaraj 
Party  back  to  life.  He  had  already  taken  certain  steps  in  that 
direction.  After  corresponding  with  Dr.  B.C.Roy,  the  Bengal 
leader  who  later  became  the  Chief  Minister  of  that  State,  he  had 
prepared  a  scheme  providing  for  organised  parliamentary 
activities  by  those  Congressmen  who  chose  to  pursue  this  course 
of  action.  The  guest  and  the  host  prepared  another  scheme  and 
submitted  it  to  the  Mahatma  for  his  approval.  Munshi  emphasized 
the  need  for  such  an  activity  if  only  to  overcome  the  prevailing 
atmosphere  of  frustration.  Gandhi  saw  no  objection  to  move  and 
told  Munshi  that  he  was  free  to  sponsor  it. 

Both  Munshi  and  Ayyangar  thought  that  their  cause  would 
receive  the  needed  impetus  if  they  could  enlist  the  support  of 
Dr.  M.A.Ansari,  the  widely  respected  nationalist  Muslim  leader. 
Not  only  he,  but  Maulana  Abul  Kalam  Azad  and  Mrs.  Sarojini 
Naidu  showed  interest  in  it.  Decision  was  taken  to  convene  a 
conference  of  like-minded  Congressmen  so  that  a  regular 
“council-entry”  movement  could  be  launched.  The  terrible  Bihar 

*7  Follow  the  Mahatma  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  p.  144. 

Swaraj  Without  Substance 


earthquake  on  January  15, 1934  and  the  death  of  Ayyangar  on 
the  5th  day  of  the  following  month  did  not  augur  well  for  the 
project.  But  its  champions  were  determined  to  see  it  through. 
After  a  number  of  discussions  and  deliberations,  including  those 
held  in  Dr.  Ansari’s  Delhi  residence  on  March  31  and  April  1, 
the  Swaraj  Party  was  brought  into  existence  again.  At  the  Delhi 
deliberations,  Munshi  suggested  that  the  Mahatma's  consent 
should  be  obtained  to  their  programme,  that  Dr.  Ansari  should 
accept  the  Chairmanship  of  the  new  party  and  that  Dr. 
B.C.Roy,  M.S.Aney,  Bhulabhai  Desai  and  others  should  give 
their  undivided  attention  to  the  propagation  of  the  council  entry 
message.  Dr.Roy  regretted  his  inability  to  function  outside  his 
province.  At  a  convention  of  the  Swaraj  Party  held  at  Ranchi  in 
April-May,  1934,  Bhulabhai  Desai  moved  a  resolution  rejecting 
the  White  Paper  and  demanding  the  establishment  of  a 
Constituent  Assembly  to  frame  a  suitable  constitution  for  the 
country.*  For  all  the  trouble  he  took  in  seeking  the  revival  of  the 
Swaraj  Party,  Munshi  received  only  brickbats  from  some 
Congressmen.  He  would  have  given  up  the  effort  as  a 
thanklessone  were  it  not  for  the  support  of  Mahatma  Gandhi 
and  other  friends. 

The  Congress  contested  the  1936  -  37  general  elections 
with  such  thoroughness  that  it  won  the  admiration  of  all  impartial 
observers,  including  Sir  Harry  Haig,  Governor 
of  the  United  Provinces  from  1934  to  1939.  Resident  Congress 
workers  in  nearly  every  village  became  active  and  carried  the 
message  of  their  party  to  the  humblest  homestead.  In 
consequence,  its  electoral  victory  was  overwhelming.  Of  the 
1,585  seats,  it  won  71 1,  which  was  acclaimed  as  an  outstanding 
feat.  Even  so,  it  was  not  in  a  hurry  to  seek  office.  It  had  long 

* Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  pp.  33-41. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

been  at  war  with  the  foreign  Government  whose  bureaucracy 
had  come  to  look  upon  the  white  cap  as  the  symbol  of  sedition. 
Non-Congress  elements,  to  whom  cooperation  with  the 
authorities  was  an  article  of  faith,  would  feel  cheated  if  they 
were  denied  the  loaves  and  fishes  of  office.  The  new 
constitution  gave  only  a  modicum  of  authority  to  the  popular 
ministries  and  a  hostile  Governor  could  reduce  even  this  to  a 
chimera.  Acceptance  of  responsibility  without  power  was, 
therefore,  considered  as  not  only  ridiculous  but  dangerous.  The 
Congress  accordingly  directed  in  March  1937  that  ministerships 
should  not  be  accepted  unless  “the  leader  of  the  Congress  party 
in  the  legislature  is  satisfied  and  is  able  to  state  publicly  that  the 
Governor  will  not  use  his  special  powers  of  interference  or  set 
aside  the  advice  of  Ministers  in  regard  to  their  constitutional 

By  this  demand  the  Congress  certainly  did  not  want  the 
Governors  to  be  divested  of  the  special  powers  statutorily 
conferred  on  them,  but  it  did  desire  that  such  powers  should  not 
be  used  in  order  to  thwart  the  initiative  and  enterprise  of  the 
popular  ministries.  There  was  a  good  deal  of  discussion  both  in 
India  and  in  England  about  the  legitimacy  of  Congress 
stipulation.  It  was,  however,  belatedly  realised  that  it  was  well 
within  its  rights  to  seek  such  a  guarantee.  On  June  17,  1937,  the 
required  assurance  was  given  by  Neville  Chamberlain,  the 
British  Prime  Minister.  Five  days  later,  on  June  22,  the  Viceroy, 
Lord  Linlithgow,  followed  his  example.*  (Detailed  reference  to 
these  assurances  will  be  made  in  a  subsequent  chapter).  The 
elucidation  of  the  constitutional  position  by  two  such  authorities 
decided  the  Congress  to  accept  the  responsibilities  of 
government.  In  July,  its  ministries  were  formed  in  eight  out  of  the 

* Linlithgow's  Speeches  and  Statements,  Government  of  India,  1945, 

p.  80. 

Swaraj  Without  Substance 


eleven  British  Indian  provinces.  All  of  them  remained  in  office  till 
October  1939,  when  they  resigned  on  the  issue  of  Britain’s  war 
and  peace  aims  with  reference  to  Indian  freedom. 

Ministry-forming  did  not  have  smooth  sailing  in  Bombay. 
K.  F.  Nariman,  President  of  the  Bombay  City  Congress 
Committee,  was  confident  that  he  would  be  chosen  as  the 
leader  of  the  Congress  Legislature  Party,  which  would  entitle 
him  to  head  the  ministry  in  the  province.  His  friend,  Sir  Cowasji 
Jehangir,  wielded  much  influence  with  the  Governor,  Lord 
Braboume,  which  encouraged  him  into  believing  that  he  was 
sure  to  be  called.  He  had,  however,  antagonised  the  Congress 
High  Command  by  his  dubious  role  during  the  1934  elections  to 
the  Central  legislature  when  he  abmptly  withdrew  his  candidature, 
thus  contributing  to  the  defeat  of  the  substitute  Congress 
candidate.  The  choice  of  the  leadership  fell  on  B.  G.  Kher,  a 
solicitor  by  profession  and  a  man  of  great  simplicity  and  high 
ideals.  Munshi,  who  was  also  an  aspirant  for  the  premiership, 
knew  that  his  chances  were  slender.  He  was,  however,  happy 
that  the  mantle  fell  on  Kher,  his  friend  from  the  time  he  joined 
the  Articled  Clerks’  Association  at  the  beginning  of  his  legal 
career.  Kher  was  in  those  days  Secretary  to  Justice  Beaman 
and  had  helped  Munshi  in  every  possible  way  in  his  profession. 

Munshi  was  keen  on  having  the  portfolios  of  Law  and 
Education  but  was  persuaded  to  take  Home.  The  Ministry, 
which  was  sworn  into  office  on  July  17,  1937,  consisted  of  able 
men.  Munshi’s  performance  as  Minister  in  Bombay  and  later  at 
the  Centre  in  free  India  will  be  discussed  in  a  subsequent 
chapter.  Despite  many  disadvantages,  Congress  Ministries  in 
most  of  the  provinces  gave  a  good  account  of  themselves. 
Apart  from  the  fact  that  most  of  their  members  were  men  of 
superior  calibre  and  were  inspired  by  a  genuine  spirit  of  service, 
their  doings  were  watched  with  the  unsleeping  eyes  of  argus  by 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Mahatma  Gandhi,  Jawaharlal  Nehru  and  Sardar  Vallabhbhai 
Patel.  The  elite  of  the  bureaucracy,  the  Indian  Civil  Service 
officers,  behaved,  in  the  words  of  Munshi  with  “meticulous 
rectitude”.  The  Governor,  Lord  Brabourne,  and  his  successor, 
Sir  Roger  Lumley  (later  Lord  Scarborough)  were  cooperative. 
The  constitution  allowed  the  ministries  little  scope  for  launching 
ambitious  nation-building  projects,  but  in  the  limited  area  that 
was  vouchsafed  to  them  they  were  unhampered  in  the  pursuit  of 
their  activities. 

There  is  an  impartial  testimony  to  the  fact  that  in  most  of 
the  Congress  provinces,  the  Ministers  worked  with  great 
earnestness.  Two  Governors,  Lord  Erskine  and  Sir  Harry  Haig, 
were  all  praise  for  them.  I  offer  no  apology  for  quoting  the  latter 
at  some  length.  Sir  Harry  said:  “To  sum  up  my  conclusions  on 
events  and  tendencies  of  such  complexity  and  variety  is  perhaps 
to  risk  misunderstanding  owing  to  the  necessary  brevity  of 
expression.  But  if  I  am  to  take  that  risk  I  would  say  that  the 
experiment  of  introducing  full  democratic  institutions  among  a 
people  who  still  instinctively,  think  in  authoritarian  terms,  who 
view  the  Government  as  somebody’s  ‘Raj’,  has  been  launched 
with  a  success  beyond  expectation.  Congress  and  the  Services, 
starting  about  as  far  apart  as  it  was  possible  to  be,  learned  to 
work  together.  The  Congress  learned  the  stubborn  facts  of 
administration.  The  Services  learned  the  implications  of 
democratic  control.  The  party,  which  had  hitherto  always  been 
in  opposition,  and  often  in  extreme  and  even  unconstitutional 
opposition,  to  the  Government,  took  over  the  reins  of 
government.  The  revolution  in  the  ideas  of  the  masses  caused 
by  this  change  was  kept,  on  the  whole,  within  the  bounds  of 

Swaraj  Without  Substance 


safety.  It  is  no  mean  achievement,  and  both  the  Congress  and 
the  Services  share  in  the.  credit  for  this”.* 

Jawaharlal  Nehru,  an  impatient  idealist  and  a  severe  critic 
of  the  Act  of  1935,  was  also  impressed  with  the  performance 
of  Congress  Ministries.  He  wrote:  “I  was  often  critical  of  the 
work  of  the  Congress  Governments  and  fretted  at  the  slowness 
of  the  progress  made.  But,  looking  back,  I  am  surprised  at  their 
achievements  during  a  brief  period  of  two  years  and  a  quarter, 
despite  the  innumerable  difficulties  that  surrounded  them”.  What 
the  fate  and  future  of  India  would  have  been  had  the  Congress 
remained  in  office  for  a  reasonably  long  period,  it  is  impossible 
to  say.  There  is  indeed  no  wisdom  in  speculating  on  the  possible 
and  the  contingent.  Jinnah,  whose  frustration  deepened  with 
years,  soon  got  his  opportunity  to  wage  a  war  on  the  secular 
and  nationalist  forces  in  the  country.  He  had  sworn  implacable 
hostility  to  Congress  Ministries  whose  very  success  proved  fatal 
to  India’s  territorial  integrity.  Communalism  in  India  came  of  age 
during  the-  Second  World  War. 

* Constitutional  Proposals  of  the  Sapru  Committee,  1945,  quoted 
on  page  28. 

The  Communal  Canker 

MUNSHI  WROTE  A  GOOD  DEAL  on  the  Hindu- 
Muslim  question  both  before  and  after  national 
independence.  He  felt  that  a  section  of  the  Muslim  community  had 
persuaded  itself  that  it  belonged  to  the  “master  race”.  Centuries 
ago,  when  Muslim  power  in  this  country  had  reached  its  height, 
there  were  some  rulers  and  members  of  their  dependent 
aristocracy  who  believed  in  the  preposterous  doctrine,  but  it  was 
shattered  following  the  revival  of  Hindu  supremacy.  Indeed,  the 
martial  races  of  India  never  accepted  the  hegemony  of  a  religious 
minority  as  a  natural  order  of  things.  They  fought  back  and 
eventually  brought  to  an  end  Muslim  domination  in  most  parts  of 
the  country.  The  Vijayanagar  Empire,  which  lasted  from  1336  to 
1565,  commanded  the  allegiance  of  the  entire  South.  Despite  the 
reverses  to  their  arms  at  Panipat  in  1761,  the  Marathas  were  in  the 
plenitude  of  their  military  power  till  the  end  of  the  eighteenth 
century  and  were  within  an  ace  of  winning  continental  sovereignty. 
Sir  Alfred  Lyall,  an  authority  on  the  British  Indian  period,  wrote  that 
it  was  “fortunate  for  the  English  that  they  did  not  come  into  collision 
with  such  antagonists  until  their  own  strength  had  matured,  since 
there  can  be  no  doubt  that  throughout  the  later  stages  of  the 
tournament  for  the  prize  of  ascendancy  between  England  and  the 
Native  Powers,  our  most  dangerous  challengers  were  the 
Marathas”*.  The  Sikhs  in  the  Punjab,  the  heartland  exemplary  of 

*The  Rise  and  Expansion  of  the  British  Dominion  in  India  by  Sir 
Alfred  Lyall,  John  Murray,  1907,  pp  136,  137. 

The  Communal  Canker 


present  day  Pakistan,  the  Rajputs  in  Rajasthan  and  the  jats  in 
Central  India  had  established  their  supremacy,  leaving,  only  a  few 
pockets  of  Muslim  rule  in  the  country. 

After  the  advent  of  Islam  to  India,  the  antagonism 
between  the  two  principal  communities  did  not  last  indefinitely. 
Even  Mahumad  of  Ghazni,  who  invaded  india  seventeen  times, 
had  three  Hindu  generals  to  assist  him.  Muhammad  Ghori, 
another  man  of  the  sword,  imprinted  the  image  of  goddess 
Lakshmi  on  his  gold  coins  together  with  a  legend  in  Sanskrit. 
Some  of  the  Sultans  of  Delhi  were  uninhibited  sadists,  but  the 
political,  social  and  economic  compulsions  brought  the  two 
communities  closer  together.  The  Sultans  of  Kashmir,  Bengal 
and  of  other  parts  of  the  country  made  no  great  distinction 
between  their  own  faith  and  Hinduism.  For  instance,  Zainulabdin 
of  Kashmir  often  made  a  pilgrimage  to  Amamath  and  visited  the 
Sharada  Devi  temple.  The  eighteenth  century  ruler  of  Mysore, 
Hyder  Ali,  made  a  public  avowal  that  all  religions  proceeded 
from  God  and  that  all  were  equal  in  the  eyes  of  God.  As  a 
British  historian  has  pointed  out,  Hyder  Ali’s  veneration  for  the 
great  idol  in  the  temple  of  Srirangapattana  was  as  great  as  “for 
all  the  Imams,  with  Mohammed  at  their  head”.  The  respect 
shown  by  the  Hindu  and  Sikh  rulers  to  Islam  was  exemplary. 

Most  of  the  promiment  Muslim  leaders  who  fought  for 
Pakistan  were  of  Hindu  extraction.  While  the  ancestors  of 
Jinnah,  founder  of  Pakistan,  belonged  to  a  Gujarati  Hindu 
family,  Sir  Muhammad  Iqbal,  acclaimed  as  the  Poet  of  Islam, 
was  derived  from  the  Kashmiri  Pandit  family  of  Saprus  and  was 
close  to  Sir  Tej  Bahadur  Sapru,  the  Liberal  statesman.  Sir 
Abdullah  Haroon,  Chairman  of  the  Foreign  Relations  Committee 
of  the  Muslim  League,  said  on  April  3,  1940,  that  Sir  Sikander 
Hyat  Khan's  forefathers  were  Rajputs,  while  he  himself  traced 
his  ancestry  to  a  Lohana  Hindu  family.  Sir  Fazli  Husain,  who 


K.  M.  Munshi 

was  supposed  to  resemble  the  Irish  Parnell  as  a  man  of 
determination,  was  the  pillar  of  the  Muslim  League  before 
Jinnah’s  unchallenged  ascendancy.  His  family  also  once  belonged 
to  the  Hindu  religion  and  was  strongly  influenced  by  its  ancestral 
faith  in  the  ceremonies’  pertaining  to  birth  and  marriage.  Except 
in  the  mode  of  their  worship,  the  two  communities  are  thus 
indistinguishable  ethnically,  culturally  and  linguistically. 

Indeed,  the  interdependence  between  them  was  complete. 
Muslim  rulers  could  not  sustain  their  sway  without  the  military 
support  of  the  Hindu  warlike  communities.  Nor  was  it  possible 
for  them  to  run  their  civil  administration  without  enlisting  the 
services  of  Hindu  intellectual  elite.  The  Kayasthas,  the  Khatris, 
the  Pandits  of  Kashmir,  the  Amils  of  Sind  and  a  few  other  Hindu 
castes  became  the  mainstay  of  Muslim  government.  They  learnt 
Persian,  the  language  of  the  rulers,  and  gaining  mastery  over  it, 
attained  high  positions  in  the  bureaucracy.  Some  of  Munshi ’s 
own  ancestors  joined  Muslim  governments  as  civil  servants.  He 
writes:  “In  the  early  decades  of  the  18th  century,  one  of  my 
forefathers,  who  served  in  the  Secretariat  of  the  Moghul 
Emperor  of  Delhi,  was  a  Persian  poet,  presenting  the  Emperor 
with  a  laudatory  poem  on  the  latter’s  birthday.  Another  was  the 
head  of  the  Secretariat  of  the  Nawab  of  Broach  in  the  latter  half 
of  the  1 8th  century.  He  has  left  behind  a  work  containing  an 
autobiographical  introduction  and  the  copies  of  the  letters  he 
had  written  to  different  rulers  in  India  on  behalf  of  his  master  in 
impeccable  Persian,  prefacing  it  with  a  citation  from  the 
Koran”.*  Hindu  rulers  in  their  turn  freely  engaged  the  services 
of  Muslims  as  soldiers  and  civilian  officials.  This  tradition 
continued  in  the  Princely  India  under  the  British  paramountcy. 
Sir  Mirza  M.  Ismail  served  with  distinction  as  the  Dewan  of  the 

* Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  foot  n  e  p.  65. 

The  Communal  Canker 


premier  State  of  Mysore  and  later  in  the  same  capacity  in  the 
Rajput  principality  of  Jaipur. 

Without  the  knowledge  of  the  two  communities,  the 
parting  of  the  ways,  however,  began  after  the  great  rebellion  of 
1857,  in  which  both  participated  enthusiastically.  To  the  British, 
India  was  a  pearl  of  inestimable  price  and  it  became  the 
inflexible  resolution  of  their  mling  class  not  to  lose  it  at  all  costs. 
They  encouraged  the  myth,  so  tenaciously  cherished  by  some 
sections  of  the  Muslim  community,  that  Muslims  had  been 
India’s  real  rulers  before  the  establishment  of  the  Raj  and  that 
they  would  be  enslaved  by  their  former  subjects  should  the 
foreign  rule  come  to  an  end.  They  successfully  practised  the 
doctrine  of  counterpoise  by  placating  Muslim  vested  interests. 
But  British  Machiavellism  would  not  have  succeeded  if  the 
Muslim  intellectual  classes  had  appreciated,  as  their  Hindu 
counterparts  had  done,  the  formidable  omens  under  which  India 
was  moving  under  the  British  Raj.  Apart  from  the  fact  that  it 
was  against  all  reason  to  believe  that  the  Raj  would  last  for  ever, 
the  introduction  of  government  by  laws  and  of  free  institutions, 
the  latter,  however  faltedngly,  was  of  fateful  significance  Sooner 
or  later,  foreign  rule  was  bound  to  end,  paving  the  way  for  the 
establishment  of  a  secular  and  democratic  polity  and  thus 
rendering  religious  affiliations  largely  irrelevant  in  the  government 
of  the  country.  Such  an  enlightened  view  if  the  shape  of  things 
to  come  would  have  been  possible  if  the  Muslim  intellectual 
classes  had  shown  the  same  eagerness  as  the  Hindus  to  take  full 
advantage  of  the  British  institutions  in  this  country.  The 
introduction  of  English  in  March  1835,  as  the  official  language 
of  the  country  and  the  abolition  of  Persian  in  1857,  as  the 
language  of  the  law  courts  was  considered  disastrous  to  the 
Muslim  community. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

In  contrast,  the  adaptability  of  the  Hindus  was  remarkable. 
Moving  with  the  times  had  become  a  way  of  life  with  their 
intellectuals  from  a  remote  past.  Begining  with  Raja  Rammohan 
Roy  (1774-1833),  the  prophet  of  Indian  nationalism  and  a 
persevering  champion  of  modernism,  a  succession  of  Hindu 
social  reformers  and  educationists  laboured  incessantly  to 
liberate  their  community  from  the  trammels  of  backwardness. 
More  than'theirrulers,e.g  they  were  most  clamant  in  demanding 
English  schools  so  that  they  might  learn  the  new  language  and 
qualify  for  the  administrative  posts  and  for  liberal  professions. 
While  the  Muslims  complained  that  English  was  a  difficult 
language  to  learn,  the  Hindus  took  to  it  enthusiastically  on  the 
ground  that  there  was  no  vernacular  for  a  truly  cultivated 

Sir  Syed  Ahmed  Khan  (1817-98)  and  Ameer  Ali  were 
foremost  among  the  Muslims  in  realising  the  value  of  education 
for  the  advancement  of  their  community.  Ameer  Ali,  who  rose 
to  the  position  of  a  High  Court  Judge  in  1890,  laboured  hard 
for  Muslim  regeneration,  but  in  the  public  life  he  was 
overshadowed  by  his  contemporary.  Ahmed  Khan,  who  gave  a 
fateful  turn  to  Indian  Muslim  history,  was  an  official  in  the 
Judicial  Department  of  the  East  India  Company  and  became  a 
favourite  of  the  British  for  the  services  rendered  by  him  to  them 
during  the  rebellion  of  1857.  In  fact,  the  Mutiny  discovered  for 
him  his  destiny  as  in  the  later  period  the  Second  World  War  did 
likewise  for  Jinnah. 

Firmly  believing  that  education  was  the  best  antidote  to 
Muslim  backwardness,  Syed  Ahmed  Khan  founded  the  Anglo- 
Oriental  College  in  1875  which  developed  into  a  full-fledged 
University  in  1920  at  Aligarh.  He  believed  in  Hindu-Muslim 
unity  and  had  many  friends  from  the  majority  community.  Sir  Tej 
Bahadur  Sapru’s  grandfather  was  close  to  him.  And  yet  this 

The  Communal  Canker 


great  educationist  and  patriot,  who  could  have  gone  down  in 
history  as  the  Muslim  Raja  Rammohan  Roy,  staged  the  most 
astonishing  volte  face.  Loyalty  to  the  British  Raj  was  an  article 
of  faith  with  him.  In  the  evening  of  his  life,  he  came  increasingly 
under  the  influence  of  the  British  Principal  of  the  College, 
Theodore  Beck,  who  indoctrinated  him  with  the  idea  that 
representative  institutions  were  foredoomed  to  failure  in  this 
country.  British  bureaucrats  also  cleverly  worked  upon  the  mind 
of  the  aged  patriot.  His  long  interview  with  Lord  Dufferin,  the 
Viceroy,  and  the  award  of  the  K.C.S.I.  title  transformed  him 
into  an  entirely  new  person.  He  called  the  Congress  a  “stupid 
agitation”  and  dismissed  the  Bengalis  as  unwarlike 

The  separatists  did  not  allow  the  grass  to  grow  under 
their  feet.  When  the  question  of  introducing  some  changes  in  the 
administration  was  under  consideration,  a  deputation  of  influential 
Muslims,  led  by  the  Aga  Khan,  waited  on  the  Viceroy,  Lord 
Minto,  on  October  I,  1906,  to  plead  for  preferential  treatment 
for  their  community.  They  told  the  Viceroy  that  representative 
institutions  were  alien  to  Indian  traditions  and  should  not, 
therefore,  be  introduced  in  this  country.  If,  however,  the 
Government  decided  otherwise  Muslim  interests  should  be 
safeguarded  through  representation  by  separate  electorates. 
Such  representation  should  be  “commensurate  not  merely  with 
their  numerical  strength  but  also  with  their  political  importance 
and  the  value  of  the  contribution  which  they  made  to  the 
defence  of  the  Empire”.  Minto,  an  old  and  indolent  reactionary, 
readily  welcomed  the  deputationists’  suggestion  for  driving  a 
wedge  between  the  two  communities.  He  eagerly  grasped  the 
opportunity  to  propound  the  thesis,  so  dear  to  imperialist  hearts, 
that  Indians  would  never  be  fit  to  come  into  their  own. 

The  separatists  immediately  felt  the  need  for  an  organisation 
to  spearhead  their  movement  for  special  privileges  and 


K.  M.  Munshi 

accordingly  brought  into  existence  on  December  30,  1906,  the 
Muslim  League  at  Dacca.  Appropriately,  the  Aga  Khan  became 
its  first  President  and  held  that  office  till  1912. 

About  the  Muslim  League,  the  observations  of  one  of  its 
own  shining  lights  ere  conclusive;  Choudhry  Khaliquzzaman 
writes:  “The  Muslim  League  was  dominated  by  the  titled  gentry, 
Nawabs,  landlords  and  jee  huzoors  who  were  generally  well- 
meaning  gentlemen,  but  wanted  to  serve  the  Muslim  cause  only 
so  far  as  it  did  not  affect  their  position  either  socially  or  in 
Government  quarters”.* 

Discerning  Indians  and  even  Government  leaders 
and  official  documents  recognised  that  representation  by 
religion  was  a  grave  hindrance  to  the  development  of  the  self- 
governing  principles,  but  there  was  no  powerful  demand  for  its 
rejection.  The  system  achieved  statutory  status  with  its 
incorporation  in  the  Indian  Councils  Act  of  1909  and  figured 
conspicuously  in  all  the  subsequent  constitutional  reforms. 
Leaders  like  Tilak  and  Gokhale  supported  it  in  the  belief  that  it 
would  encourage  the  Muslims  to  join  the  mainstream  of  national 
life.  It  was  the  same  untenable  assumption  which  led  to  the 
famous  Congress-League  agreement  of  December  1916,  known 
as  the  Lucknow  Pact. 

Mahatma  Gandhi,  who  had  made  the  promotion  of  Hindu- 
Muslim  unity  one  of  his  most  cherished  aims,  took  the  lead  in  the 
Khilafat  movement  which  began  in  October  1919.  He  claimed 
that  Indian  Muslim  concern  over  the  future  of  distant  Turkey  and 
its  effete  Sultan  gave  “such  an  opportunity  of  unifying  Hindus  and 
Muhammedans  as  would  not  arise  in  a  hundred  years”.  The 
Muslim  intelligentsia,  whose  memories,  to  quote  Professor 

* Pathways  to  Pakistan  by  Choudhry  Khaliquzzaman,  Longmans, 
1961,  p.  137. 

The  Communal  Canker 


Coupland,  “were  more  concerned  with  Islam  than  with  India”, 
were  delighted  at  the  Mahatma’s  enthusiasm,  although  some  of 
the  bigoted  Mullahs  wondered  how  a  non-Muslim  was  entitled  to 
lead  a  basically  religious  movement.  Not  all  Indians  welcomed 
Gandhi's  movement  which,  besides  being  totally  unrelated  to 
Indian  interests,  was  demonstrably  for  a  lost  and  discredited 
cause.  The  Right  Honourable  V.S. Srinivasa  Sastri  feared  that  the 
Mahatma’s  campaign  would  “lead  us  into  disaster”.  Munshi  has 
recorded  that  Jinnah  warned  Gandhi  against  encouraging  religion 
fanaticism  in  the  country.  He  held  that  the  fate  of  Khalif  and  his 
country  was  none  of  India’s  concern.The  Nizam  of  Hyderabad, 
a  consummate  opportunist,  banned  the  agitation  in  his  State. 
Nevertheless,  the  non-cooperation  movement  of  1920  aroused 
much  enthusiasm  in  the  country.  Munshi  wrote:  “Though  we 
stood  apart,  we  could  not  help  admire  the  spirit  of  defiance  and 
sacrifice  which  Gandhi  ji  had  evoked”.  But  the  cause,  besides 
being  irrelevant,  was  unjust  and  was  doomed  to  fail. 

The  Indian  Khilafat  movement  collapsed  under  the  weight 
of  its  own  futility.  A  large  segment  of  the  Muslim  intelligentsia, 
which  had  taken  part  in  it,  made  haste  to  return  to  communal 
politics,  Maulana  Mohammed  Ali,  whose  Oxford  education  had 
failed  to  secularise  his  outlook,  saw  no  enormity  in  declaring: 
“According  to  my  creed,  I  do  hold  an  adulterous  and  a  fallen 
Mussalman  to  be  better  than  Mr.  Gandhi”.  Not  long  before,  he 
had  acclaimed  the  Mahatma  as  one  of  the  greatest  men  in  the 
world.  During  the  agitation,  he  had  behaved  like  a  mad  mullah. 
Besides  inviting  the  Amir  of  Afghanistan  to  invade  India,  he  had 
told  his  fanatical  followers  that  they  should  leave  this  country  if  the 
Khilafat  question  was  not  solved  to  their  satisfaction.  After  the 
Khilafat  fiasco,  another  Maulana,  Abdul  Bari,  issued  a  vaguely- 
worded  ukase  called/am'tf,  which  incited  some  twenty  thousand 
illiterate  Muslims  to  leave  their  hearths  and  homes  in  August  1920, 
in  order  to  settle  down  in  Islamic  paradise  of  Afghanistan.  The 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Afghan  authorities,  however,  pushed  them  back,  with  disastrous 
consequences,  the  credulous  hordes. 

On  the  Malabar  coast  in  the  South,  a  reign  of  terror  was 
let  loose  in  August  1921  by  the  local  Muslim  population  known 
as  Moplas,  who  believed  that  the  British  Raj  come  to  an  end  and 
that  they  were  now  free  to  punish  all  those  whom  they  regarded 
as  the  “enemies  of  Islam”.  Dr.  Annie  Besant  wrote  that  they 
“murdered  and  plundered  abundantly,  and  killed  or  drove  away 
all  Hindus  who  would  not  apostatize.  Somewhere  about  a  lakh 
of  people  were  driven  from  their  homes  with  nothing  but  the 
clothes  they  had  on,  stripped  of  everything”.  She  held  the  Khilafat 
agitators  responsible  for  the  Mopla  outrage.  Communal  violence 
became  more  widespread  and  savage  in  the  country.  Swami 
Shraddhanand,  the  great  spiritual  leader,  educationist  and  social 
reformer,  who  had  preached  the  gospel  of  national  unity  from  the 
precincts  of  the  historic  Jama  Masjid  in  Delhi,  was  done  to  death 
on  December  26,  1926,  by  a  Muslim  fanatic. 

Munshi,  along  with  many  others,  believed  that  the  grim 
situation  in  the  county,  resulting  from  the  failure  of  the  Khilafat 
agitation,  could  have  been  somewhat  retrieved  if  only  Mahatma 
Gandhi  had  responded  to  the  Viceroy,  Lord  Reading’s  offer  of 
political  concessions  in  return  for  the  withdrawal  of  the  popular 
movement  during  the  Indian  visit  of  the  Prince  of  Wales  in  1921. 
In  the  prevailing  temper  of  political  India,  the  Prince’s  visit  was 
not  only  untimely  but  imprudent. 

Reading,  a  cunning  and  resourceful  imperialist,  hoped  to 
mollify  Gandhi  and  thus  ensure  the  success  of  the  Prince’s  visit  to 
India  by  making  certain  offers  of  political  concession,  conveyed 
to  the  Mahatma  through  influential  nationalists,  including  C.R.Das, 
Pandit  Madan  Mohan  Malaviya  and  Maulana  Abul  Kalam  Azad. 
The  first  and  the  third-named  leaders  were  then  in  prison.  The 
Viceroy  promised  to  hold  a  Round  Table  Conference  soon  to 

The  Communal  Canker 


formulate  a  constitutional  scheme  for  giving  full  autonomy  to  the 
provinces  and  for  introducing  dyarchy  at  the  Centre.  Gandhi  was 
prepared  to  consider  the  proposal  provided  the  Viceroy 
committee  himself  to  solve  the  Punjab  and  the  Khilafat  problems. 
His  counter-offer  was  rejected  so  that  nothing  came  out  of  the 
Viceregal  move.  It  was  later  alleged  that  Gandhi  was  prompted 
by  “about  half-a-dozen  Maul  vis”  to  turn  down  the  offer. 

There  is,  however,  no  doubt  that  his  stand  caused  much 
disappointment  to  many  nationalist  leaders.  Munshi  wrote: 
“Speculation  about  what  might  have  happened  if  Reading’s  offer 
had  been  accepted  is  valueless  today.  But  it  is  impossible,  as  I 
look  back  over  the  span  of  forty-five  years,  not  to  entertain  the 
feeling  than  had  Gandhiji  accepted  Reading’s  offer  we  might 
having  obtained  Dominion  Status  before  1939  without  having 
had  to  partition  India”.* 

Muslim  demands  for  preferential  treatment  were  further 
raised  in  March  1927  in  the  shape  of  “proposals”.  Meanwhile, 
the  Secretary  of  State,  Birkenhead’s  challenge  to  Indians  to 
produce  an  agreed  constitution  stimulated  new  political  activities 
in  the  country.  A  committee,  with  Pandit  Motilal  Nehru  as 
Chairman,  was  appointed  at  an  All-Parties  Conference  held  in 
May  1928,  to  draft  a  scheme  for  a  self-governing  India.  The 
committee  conceded  most  of  the  Muslim  demands  except  the 
one  pertaining  to  representation  by  religion. 

According  to  Munshi,  Jinnah  was  in  a  truculent  mood 
when  the  Nehru  proposals  were  discussed.  Jinnah  insisted  that 
Muslims  should  have  one-third  representation  at  the  Centre 
besides  the  residuary  powers  being  vested  in  the  provinces. 
Even  more  formidable  was  the  opposition  of  the  Aga  Khan. 

*Pilgrimange  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  23. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

When  Gandhi  attended  the  Second  Round  Table 
Conference  in  London  in  September  1931,  there  was  a 
well-planned  conspiracy  among  the  Indian  communalists  and 
British  diehards  at  the  Conference  to  defeat  his  mission.  Hoare 
conceded  that  Gandhi  held,  “one  of  the  master  keys  to  the 
book  of  the  constitution  that  we  were  trying  to  write  and  that 
the  Mahatma  was  most  certainly  “not  the  relentless  and 
scheming  conspirator  that  many  of  my  friends  imagined”.  And 
yet  the  great  leader  was  asked  to  perform  the  impossible  feat 
of  coming  to  terms  with  the  Aga  Khan  on  the  communal 
question.  Important  observers  noted  that  the  carefully 
hand-picked  Muslim  delegation  at  the  Conference  was 
determined  not  to  yield  to  nationalism.  Professor  Harold  Laski, 
who  was  actively  associated  with  the  deliberations,  saw  how 
impossible  it  was  to  promote  a  modus  vivendi  with  the  Muslim 
separatists.  In  his  correspondence  with  justice  Holmes  of 
America,  he  disclosed  that  on  being  asked  to  “bring  the 
Mohammedans  to  reason”  he  had  their  "leader  here  for  hours 
trying  to  find  a  basis  for  discussion”.  But,  continued  this 
perceptive  and  impartial  man  of  learning,  “it  was  like  talking  to 
a  wall.  His  religion  was  the  ultimate  truth,  and  he  was  never 
even  willing  to  find  a  plane  of  secular  institutions  which  implied, 
so  to  say,  a  non-theological  society.  It  was  like  being  taken 
back  into  reformation  times.  The  Professor  found  it  impossible 
to  talk  to  men  who  believed  themselves  to  have  ultimate  truth 
in  their  possession”.*  It  is  small  wonder  that  Mahatma  Gandhi 
gained  nothing  from  the  Aga  Khan  and  announced  the  failure  of 
the  talks  on  October  8,  1931. 

*Holmes-Laski  Letters:  The  Correspondence  of  Mr.  Justice  Holmes 
and  Harold  J.  Leaski,  1916-1935  edited  by  Mark  De  Wolfe,  Harvard 
university,  1953,  pp.  1332,  1335,  1338. 

The  Communal  Canker 


The  outcome  of  these  sordid  developments  was  the  plea 
to  the  British  monkey  to  distribute  butter  “equitably”  between 
the  two  quarrelling  Indian  cats.  The  Prime  Minister,  Ramsay 
MacDonald,  was  requested  to  prepare  a  scheme  for  the 
composition  of  the  new  Indian  legislature.  Known  as  the 
Communal  Award,  the  scheme  was  published  on  Augest  4, 
1932.  The  Award  confirmed  the  widely-held  belief  that  the 
Indian  separatists  could  always  get  more  from  the  Raj  than  by 
making  common  cause  with  the  nationalists.  Accepting  the 
disruptive  principle  of  separate  representation  the  Award 
,divided  the  Indian  electoral  system  into  twelve  mutually- 
exclusive  compartments,  namely,  the  Hindus,  the  Muslims,  the 
Sikhs,  the  Anglo-Indians,  the  European  community  in  India,  the 
Depressed  Classes,  the  Indian  Christians,  Commerce  and 
Industry,  landlords  and  the  monied  classes,  Labour,  University 
graduates  and  women.  The  Award  was  a  millstone  around 
India’s  neck  and,  as  impartial  observers  pointed  out,  exacerbated 
communal  feelings  instead  of  calming  them.  It  was  a  windfall  for 
dissident  elements  in  the  country. 

As  we  saw  in  the  last  chapter,  the  Congress  won  a 
resounding  victory  in  the  1936-37  elections  and  formed  its 
ministries  in  most  of  the  British  Indian  provinces  in 
July  1937  after  receiving  an  assurance  from  the  Viceroy  that  the 
Governors  would  not  use  their  special  powers  indiscriminately. 
The  party  encountered  difficulties  in  choosing  Muslim  ministers  in 
two  provinces.  In  Bombay  there  was  no  elected  Nationalist 
Muslim,  who  could  be  selected  for  the  office.  When  Jinnah  and 
Munshi  were  together  in  the  Bar  library  of  the  Bombay  High 
Court,  the  former  suggested  that  Congress  and  the  Muslim 
League  should  team  up  to  run  the  provincial  governments. 
Munshi  conveyed  his  proposal  to  the  Mahatma  and  the  Sardar. 
Later  when  B.  G.  Kher  and  his  colleagues  took  office,  Sir 
Cowasji  Jehangir,  an  influential  Liberal  Parsi  baronet,  spoke  to 


K.  M.  Munshi 

both  the  Sardar  and  Maulana  Azad  about  Jinnah’s  wishes.  At  that 
time  both  these  members  of  the  Congress  Parliamentary  Board 
were  Munshi’ s  guests  at  poona.  Munshi  has  recorded  that  during 
most  of  the  discussions  he  and  Kher  were  present.  Jinnah 
demanded  that  there  should  be  two  Muslims  in  the  Bombay 
Cabinet  and  that  they  should  be  his  nominees.  They  would  be 
neither  the  members  of  the  Congress  nor  would  they  be  amenable 
to  its  discipline.  Munshi  writes:  “In  effect,  they  would  be  at  the 
disposal  of  Jinnah  to  obstruct,  defy  or  sabotage  and,  by  using  a 
veto,  blackmail  the  Congress  into  submission”.  The  Sardar  and 
the  Maulana  saw  no  wisdom  in  accepting  such  an  imprudent 
proposal.  Eventually,  an  Ahmedabad  lawyer,  Mohamed  Yasin 
Nuri,  an  independent  Muslim,  was  inducted  into  the  Kher 
Ministry.  The  other  frustrated  Muslim  Independents  made  a 
beeline  to  the  Muslim  League.*  The  United  Provinces,  now 
known  as  Uttar  Pradesh,  imbroglio  was,  however,  far  more 
serious  and  drove  the  iron  into  Jinnah’s  soul. 

The  Muslim  League  was  solely  interested  in  spreading  a 
canard  about  the  Congress  ministries.  There  is  conclusive 
evidence  to  show  that  the  ministries  were  animated  not  only  by 
a  high  sense  of  purpose  but  also  of  fairness  in  their  dealings  with 
all  sections  of  the  population.  In  London,  Sir  Harry  Haig,  former 
Governor  of  the  United  Provinces,  stated  at  a  meeting  presided 
over  by  Sir  O’Neil,  Under  Secretary  of  State  for  India,  that  “in 
dealing  with  questions  raising  communal  issues,  the  Ministers,  in 
my  judgment,  normally  acted  with  impartiality  and  a  desire  to  do 
what  was  fair”.  The  Times ,  not  a  friend  of  the  Congress, 
conceded  that  the  Congress  ministries  were  “well-disposed  to 
the  Muslim  community”.  Professor  Coupland  dismissed  the 
League’s  charges  as  either  “exaggerated  or  of  little  serious 
moment”.  Maulana  Azad,  who  played  a  leading  part  in  the 

* Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  pp.  47,  48. 

The  Communal  Canker 


formation  of  Congress  ministries,  reacted  strongly  against  the 
League’s  propaganda.  He  said:  “I  can  speak  from  personal 
knowledge  that  these  allegations  were  absolutely  unfounded. 
This  was  also  the  view  held  by  the  Viceroy  and  the  Governors 
of  different  provinces”.  He  added:  “Every  incident  which 
involved  communal  issues  came  up  before  me.  From  personal 
knowledge  and  with  a  full  sense  of  responsibility,  I  can  therefore 
say  that  the  charges  levelled  by  Mr.  Jinnah  and  the  Muslim 
League  with  regard  to  injustice  to  Muslims  and  other  minorities 
were  absolutely  false”*.  But  truth,  moderation  and  fair  play 
were  a  casualty  in  those  days  and  in  the  subsequent  years. 

It  was  impossible  to  make  Jinnah  see  reason.  He  was 
bent  upon  coercing  the  Congress  into  conceding  that  he  alone 
was  the  leader  of  the  Muslim  League  and  that  the  League  was 
the  sole  representative  of  the  Indian  Muslim  community.  Like 
other  intelligent  people,  he  knew  that  the  World  War  would  be 
far  more  serious  than  its  predecessor  and  that  a  hard-pressed 
British  Government  would  need  Indian  co-operation  in  the  war 
effort  as  never  before.  He  was  shrewd  enough  to  realise  that  the 
Congress  would  agree  to  help  only  if  its  plea  for  self- 
government  was  not  only  heeded  but  effective  steps  were  taken 
in  that  direction.  It  was  equally  clear  that  the  British  would  not 
wind  up  their  Raj  in  India  of  their  own  accord.  An  inestimable 
opportunity  would  thus  arise  for  him  to  assert  his  own 
importance  to  secure  official  recognition  that  he  was  the  sole 
leader  of  the  Muslim  community.  He  could  then  use  his  negative 
power  to  dictate  his  own  terms  both  to  the  Government  and  the 
Congress.  The  resignation  of  Congress  ministries  in  October 
1939  in  protest  against  Whitehall's  obstinacy  on  the  issue  of 
Indian  freedom  transformed  what  would  only  have  been 
Jinnah’s  day  dreams  into  realisable  goals. 

*India  Wins  Freedom  by  Maulana  Abul  Kalam  Azad,  pp.  21,  22. 


The  War 

MUNSHI  WAS  A  STAUNCH  Congressman.  Although  on 
occasions  he  separated  himself  from  it,  his  loyalty  to  the 
organisation  and  its  great  leader,  Mahatma  Gandhi,  was 
absolute.  He  had,  however,  certain  convictions  which  he  was 
not  prepared  to  forsake  for  any  reason.  On  the  issue  of 
constitutional  reforms  he  was  essentially  a  responsive  cooperator. 
As  a  constitutional  expert  and  a  keen  student  of  affairs,  he 
knew,  like  any  other  knowledgeable  person,  all  about  the 
limitations  of  the  Government  of  India  Act,  1935.  At  the  same 
time,  he  saw  in  the  statute,  as  not  many  others  had  done,  the 
seeds  of  progress  which  he  was  loath  to  abandon.  He  strongly 
felt  on  the  issue  of  office  acceptance  since  it  provided  an 
inestimable  opportunity  for  the  nationalists  to  widen  the  scope 
of  the  Act  and  thus  shorten  the  distance  for  the  country  to  reach 
Dominion  Status  which,  as  all  discerning  persons  conceded, 
was  equal  to  the  status  of  Britain  herself.  Munshi  also  felt  that 
only  by  accepting  the  responsibilities  of  government,  the 
Congress  would  be  able  to  hold  in  check  communal,  extremism. 
Taking  this  view  of  the  Indian  situation,  he  welcomed  the 
Congress  acceptance  of  office  in  1937  as  the  highest  act  of 
statesmanship.  Even  an  impatient  idealist  and  a  strong  critic  of 
the  Act  of  1935,  Jawaharlal  Nehru,  acclaimed  the  experiment 
as  a  success. 

The  outbreak  of  the  second  World  War  in  September 
1939  was  a  momentous  event  to  the  entire  mankind.  It  was 

The  War 


global  in  its  range  and  total  in  its  destructive  potency.  Not  much 
perception  was  necessary  to  realise  that  the  War  would  bomb 
the  status  quo  out  of  existence.  It  was,  therefore,  futile  to 
expect  that  the  British  Empire  would  remain  unscathed  at  the 
end  of  the  Titanic  conflict.  Aldous  Huxley  wrote  that  modem 
wars  had  the  potency  of  shaking  the  “whole  fabric  of  custom  of 
law,  of  mutual  confidence,  of  decency  and  humanity”.  Centuries 
ago,  Burke  made  the  pregnant  remark  that  “war  never  leaves 
where  it  found  a  nation”.  It  was  clear  that  the  post-war  world 
would  witness  revolutionary  changes  and  thinking  men,  especially 
in  Britain  and  America,  embarked  upon  a  prolonged  debate  on 
how  best  those  changes  could  be  harnessed  to  the  lasting  good 
of  mankind.  Leaders  of  thought  like  Bernard  Russell  and  H.  G. 
Wells  looked  upon  the  war  as  crisis  of  civilization  and  drew  up 
blue-prints  for  a  bold  re-organisation  of  human  affairs  on  a  just 
and  equitable  basis.  Some  of  them  asked  for  action  in  that 
direction  even  when  the  cannons  were  roaring.  Professor 
Harold  Laski,  for  instance,  maintained,  that  “in  war,  the  deed  is 
the  word”.  In  America,  informed  opinion  had  long  been  in 
favour  of  British  withdrawal  from  India.  Its  leaders  felt  that  the 
War  provided  an  inestimable  opportunity  for  Whitehall  to  take 
significant  steps  in  that  direction. 

Those  British  mlers,  who  had  succumbed  to  the  seductions 
of  imperial  glory,  were,  however,  not  prepared  to  take  such  a' 
realistic  view  of  the  situation.  The  Viceroy,  Lord  Linlithgow, 
was  an  ardent  imperialist.  He  knew  that  the  British  Empire 
would  not  survive  the  impact  of  the  war  but  refused  to  take  any 


K.  M.  Munshi 

forward  steps  towards  constitutional  reform  unless  the  nationalists 
gave  their  ungrudging  support  to  the  war  effort.* 

The  Congress  had  good  reason  to  be  sceptical  about  the 
Viceroy’s  intentions  towards  India.  In  the  name  of  consulting 
representative  opinion,  he  started  meeting  all  and  sundry — 
Shefley’s  “illustrious  obscure” — who  could  be  tmsted  to  present 
the  most  conflicting  points  of  view.  Nor  was  the  Government 
prepared  to  give  up  its  trump  card,  namely,  the  minorities.  The 
Viceroy's  statement  of  October  18,  1939,  told  the  Indian 
people  that  “representatives  of  the  minorities  have  urged  most 
strongly  on  me  the  necessity  of  a  clear  assurance  that  full  weight 
would  be  given  to  their  views  and  to  their  interests  in  any 
modifications  that  may  be  contemplated”.  He  was  definite  that 
unless  “all  parties  and  all  interests  in  the  country”  asked  with 
one  voice  for  political  concessions,  there  would  be  none.  So 
much  concerning  the  future.  About  the  present,  it  would  be 
possible  to  establish  a  consultative  group,  “representative  of  all 
major  political  parties  in  British  India  and  of  the  Indian  Princes”, 
with  a  view  to  associating  public  opinion  “with  the  conduct  of 
the  war  and  with  questions  relating  to  war  activities”.  There  was 
no  talk  of  relaxing  bureaucratic  absolutism  by  taking  Indians  as 
partners  at  the  Centre  in  the  government  of  the  country. 

The  Congress  was  furious.  Deliberating  for  two  days  on 
the  political  situation,  its  executive  registered  on  October  22- 
23,  an  emphatic  protest  against  the  Viceroy’s  offer.  Its 
resolution  said:  “What  the  Committee  had  asked  for  was  a 

*The  Viceroy  said:  “English  is  making  a  colossal  effort  to  win  the  war 
and  at  the  end  of  the  war,  as  on  the  last  occasion,  it  be  exhausted. 
At  that  time  there  will  be  a  tendency  to  liberalise  the  institutions  of 
the  Empire.  India  should  not  then  be  found  unprepared  and 
disunited”.  Munshi’s  Note  on  his  interview  with  the  Viceroy  on 
January  12,  1940,  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom,  Volume  I,  p.  391. 

The  War 


declaration  of  war  aims  as  a  test  of  Britain’s  bona  fides 
regarding  India,  irrespective  of  the  attitude  of  opposing  parties 
and  groups”.  It  reminded  the  authorities  that  the  political 
freedom  the  Congress  was  asking  for  was  not  for  its  own 
advantage  but  for  the  benefit  of  all  sections  of  the  population. 
The  emptiness  of  the  October  announcement  drove  the 
Congress  to  withhold  its  suppor  to  the  Government  in  its  war 
effort  since  cooperation  under  such  conditions  “would  amount 
to  an  endorsement  of  the  imperialist  policy  which  the  Congress 
has  always  sought  to  end”  As  a  first'  step  in  that  direction,  the 
Congress  asked  its  ministries  to  resign.  Its  decision  to  vacate 
office  in  October  1939  and  its  refusal  to  go  back  to  it  till  1946 
was  of  fateful  significance  since  it  gave  a  new  and  disastrous 
turn  to  the  course  of  the  country’s  history. 

Linlithgow  now  turned  to  Jinnah,  who  at  that  time  did  not 
count  for  much  either  in  Muslim  or  national  politics.  He  was 
nursing  deep  resentment  against  the  Congress  in  general  and 
against  Gandhi  in  particular  for  his  own  failure  to  be  in  the  front 
rank  of  national  leadership.  The  war  became  a  God-send  to 
him.  He  knew  that  on  the  issue  of  Britain’s  war  and  peace  aims, 
the  Congress  would  go  into  political  wilderness,  compelling  the 
Viceroy  to  court  him.  He  would  then  be  able,  not  only  to 
rehabilitate  himself  as  an  indispensable  leader  but  also  to  wreak 
his  vengeance  on  his  Congress  adversaries  by  holding  up  all 
constructive  constitutional  talks.  As  the  first  step  in  that 
direction,  he  ordered  his  party  to  celebrate  December  22, 
1939,  as  the  Deliverance  Day  to  mark  Muslim  “emancipation” 
from  the  “tyranical”  Congress  governments.  He  answered  in  the 
negative  when  confronted  with  the  question  whether  he  intended 
to  champion  the  cause  of  other  minorities.  He  admitted  that  the 
Sikhs  and  the  Depressed  Classes  were  on  the  side  of  the 


K.  M.  Munshi 

majority  community.  A  sizable  section  of  enlightened  Muslim 
opinion  was  also  patriotic  and  forward-looking,  but  it  did  not 
suit  either  Jinnah  or  the  Viceroy  to  acknowledge  this  fact. 

The  growing  amity  between  the  Viceroy  and  the  League 
leader  provided  a  strong  incentive  to  the  latter  to  persuade  his 
party  to  adopt  the  famous  partition  resolution  of  March  1940. 
It  was  a  dangerous  resolution  which  sought  to  destroy  all  the 
good  work  the  British  had  done  to  consolidate  the  territorial 
integrity  of  the  country  and  to  promote  its  administrative  unity. 
India  was  thus  exposed  to  an  unprecedented  risk  of  truncation. 
As  the  premier  national  organisation,  the  choice  before  the 
Congress  in  these  circumstances  was  clear.  It  could  not,  of 
course,  retrace  its  steps  on  the  issue  of  national  freedom,  but 
efforts  to  preserve  the  country’s  territorial  unity  deserved 
absolute  priority.  It  could  hope  to  protect  India’s  oneness  only 
by  cooperating  with  the  Government  and  by  re-occupying 
ministerial  positions  in  the  provinces.  It  was  clear  that  the 
Churchill  government  would  not  prevent  the  Congress  from 
seeking  to  nullify  the  partition  resolution.  Freedom  would  not 
come  to  her  during  war  time  but  was  no  longer  in  Whitehall’s 
power  to  withhold  it  as  part  of  post-war  settlement. 

That  was  an  agonising  time  for  Munshi.  He  was  both 
intellectually  and  emotionally  attached  to  India  as  an  indivisible 
land  of  his  ancestors.  In  his  literary  creations  he  had  put  her  on 
the  highest  pedestal  among  the  nations  of  the  world,  recalling 
her  inestimable  services  in  the  cause  of  human  enlightenment. 
Even  a  foreign  politician  like  Ramsay  MacDonald  had  written 
enthusiastically  about  India’s  unity.  He  held  that  from  the 
Himalayas  to  Cape  Comorin,  from  the  Bay  of  Bengal  to 
Bombay,  the  country  was  “naturally  the  area  of  a  single 
government”.  He  further  observed:  “Political  and  religious 

The  War 


tradition  has  also  welded  it  into  one  Indian  consciousness.  Even 
those  masses,  who  are  not  aware  of  this,  offer  up  prayers  which 
proclaim  it  and  go  on  pilgrimages  which  assume  it”.  Munshi, 
whose  knowledge  of  India’s  ancient  lore  was  profound,  felt  the 
prospect  of  her  dismemberment  with  the  intensity  of  a  personal 
bereavement.  He  decided  to  fight  against  it  as  best  he  could. 

He  was  convinced  that  the  “creed  of  disruption”  had  so 
far  thriven  on  appeasement  and  he  accordingly  appealed  to  his 
countrymen  to  unite  in  order  to  defeat  the  Muslim  League’s 
separatist  politics.  He  invented  the  famous  expression  Akhand 
Hindustan  or  undivided  India  and  sought  to  popularise  the 
concept  of  the  country’s  indivisibility  by  speaking  about  it  over 
the  length  and  breadth  of  the  country.  Akhand  Hindustan,  he 
asserted,  “is  a  living  reality  which  no  man  in  his  senses  dare  trifle 
with”.  Nature  and  man  had  preserved  the  country  as  an 
indivisible  entity  and  it  was  the  heritage  duty  of  every  Indian  to 
protect  and  transmit  this  great  heritage  to  posterity.  He  wrote: 
“From  Amarnath  to  Rameshwaram,  from  Dwaraka  to  Kalighat, 
the  land  is  one  and  indivisible.  It  is  sanctified  by  the  sacrifices 
of  Indians  of  thirty  centuries.  It  is  the  shrine  at  which  our  gods 
and  fathers  have  worshipped.  It  is  the  hope  of  India’s  sons,  it 
will  remain  such  till  the  end  of  time.  Its  inviolability  is  the  first 
article  of  their  faith  here,  their  salvation  hereafter.  Whoever 
seeks  to  part  what  has  thus  been  joined  will  have  to  walk  over 
the  dead  bodies  of  millions  of  Indians.  And  even  then,  India  will 
remain  indivisible”.*  Such  was  the  intensity  of  his  feeling  on  the 
issue  of  India’s  partition. 

At  the  same  time,  Munshi  endeavoured  to  persuade  the 
authorities  to  realise  the  error  of  their  ways.  When  he  met 
Linlithgow  on  January  12,  1940,  to  present  his  views  on  the 

*  Akhand  Hindustan  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  New  Book  Co.,  1942,  p.  23. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Indian  situation  and  to  ascertain  the  Viceroy’s  reactions  to  them, 
the  latter  had  suggested  to  him  that  he  should  present  his  case 
before  Sir  Roger  Lumley,  Governor  of  Bombay.  He  accordingly 
prepared  a  comprehensive  document  and  sent  it  to  the  Governor 
on  June  8.  Besides  deploring  the  lack  of  imagination  in  Britain’s 
India  policy,  he  regretted  the  authorities'  distrust  of  the  Congress 
in  the  mistaken  belief  that  it  was  opposed  to  British  interests.  It 
was  not  right  to  placate  the  Princely  Order,  the  champion  of  the 
status  quo.  Muslim  reactionaries  were  being  encouraged  to 
arrest  india's  progress  towards  freedom.  States  like  the  Nizam's 
Hyderabad  were  “financing  and  influencing”  the  separatist 
tendencies  among  the  Muslims.  Stalwarts  like  Sir  Mohammad 
Zafrulla  Khan  and  Sir  Sikander  Hyat  Khan  were  being  ignored. 
“Mr.  Jinnah”,  Munshi  wrote,  “in  spite  of  his  cryptic  utterances  as 
regards  the  British  rule,  is  unfriendly  and  his  two-nation  theory  is 
as  much  a  counterblast  to  British-imposed  unity  in  India  as  to  the 
national  unity  which  Congress  covets”. 

Pleading  for  a  reversal  of  the  reactionary  British  policy 
towards  India,  he  emphasised  the  need  for  setting  up  a  national 
government  in  the  best  interests  of  both  the  countries.  He  wrote: 
“In  the  end  I  may  once  again  urge  that  setting  up  a  strong  National 
Government  at  the  Centre  is  today  neither  a  matter  of  convenience 
nor  of  fair-play  as  it  was  before  May  10, 1940.  It  is  a  matter  of 
extreme  importance,  both  for  Britain  and  India,  of  life  and  death 
urgency  to  the  maintenance  of  the  British  influence  in  Asia  and  to 
the  stabilisation  of  the  East.  It  has  to  be  achieved,  if  necessary, 
against  the  unimaginative  traditions  of  ponderous  statesmanship 
with  which  India  has  been  familiar  in  the  past”.* 

Munshi  had  no  illusions  that  his  presentation  of  the  facts 
about  the  Indian  situation  would  yield  the  desired  results.  He 

* Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  pp.  394,  402. 

The  War 


was  on  friendly  terms  with  the  Aga  Khan  who  pressed  him  to 
meet  Jinnah  and  himself  arranged  for  the  two  to  come  together. 
Much  water  had  flowed  under  the  bridges  since  the  two 
men  had  worked  together  for  their  motherland’s  liberation  under 
the  banner  of  the  Home  Rule  League.  Jinnah  had  now  become 
an  entirely  changed  person  and  believed  that  he  was  the 
prophet  of  partition.  In  March  1940  he  made  the  candid 
admission  that  the  war  and  the  Viceroy  had  pushed  him  up  to 
the  pinnacle  of  leadership. 

So  the  meeting  between  Munshi  and  Jinnah  on  June  23, 
1940  could  not  be  fruitful.  They  could  converse  in  Gujarati,  the 
mother  tongue  of  both,  but  the  political  idiom  of  the  two  was 
entirely  different.  While  the  one  was  a  passionate  believer  in 
Akhand  Hindustan,  the  other  was  equally  convinced  that  only 
by  its  dismemberment  could  there  be  peace  and  settlement. 
Jinnah’s  initial  cordiality  towards  his  former  colleague  disappeared 
the  moment  he  began  to  vindicate  his  political  volte  face. 
Arguing  that  partition  alone  would  solve  the  Indian  question,  he 
maintained,  like  the  British  diehards,  that  the  concept  of  Indian 
nationhood  was  a  myth.  Even  under  an  extreme  form  of  federal 
government,  with  the  provinces  enjoying  complete  autonomy, 
the  Centre  was  bound  to  be  dominated  by  the  Hindus.  In  the 
matter  of  Defence,  the  relative  representation  of  the  two 
communities  in  the  armed  forces  would  provoke  a  conflict.  The 
Princely  States  should  be  left  alone.  Once  the  sub-continent 
became  self-governing,  the  British  Government  would  not  be 
able  to  retain  its  hold  on  the  Princes  whose  principalities  could 
either  be  absorbed  or  allowed  to  continue  if  they  were  large 
enough  to  sustain  their  own  governments.  Jinnah  rejected 
Munshi’s  apprehension  that  any  division  of  India  on  religious 
grounds  would  only  worsen  the  relations  between  the  two 


K.  M.  Munshi 

communities,  leading  to  their  permanent  estrangement  and  to  a 
perpetual  conflict,  between  the  two  independent  countries. 

It  was  perhaps  his  former  friendship  for  Munshi  which 
prompted  Jinnah  to  complain  that  Mahatma  Gandhi  had 
“broken  off  negotiations”  with  him  in  the  previous  December 
and  never  cared  to  renew  them,  although  he,  the  Mahatma,  was 
prepared  to  meet  the  Viceroy  any  number  of  times.  He  asked: 
“Why  should  then  Jinnah  be  treated  as  an  untouchable?  Merely 
because  he  holds  the  opinion  that  the  Congress  Governments 
had  not  treated  minorities  fairly”.  Even  if  it  was  thought  that  he 
had  committed  the  mistake  of  celebrating  the  anti-Congress  day 
“that  is  no  reason  they  should  shun  me”.*  Jinnah’  was  a  strange 
grievances.  He  did  not  believe  in  the  decencies  and  the 
established  norms  of  public  debate.  No  person,  except  himself, 
was  of  eminence  in  his  eyes. 

The  Viceroy’s  declaration  of  August  8,  1940,  promising 
Dominion  Status  to  India  on  an  unspecified  date  infuriated  the 
Congress  which  launched  “individual  satyagraha”  as  a  protest 
against  British  intransigence  on  the  issue  of  the  country’s 
independence.  On  October  17,  Acharya  Vinoba  Bhave,  the 
future  Bhoodan  leader  and  a  staunch  Gandhian,  made  an  anti¬ 
war  speech  which  ended  in  his  arrest  four  days  later.  On 
October  3 1 ,  Nehru  was  arrested  and  was  vindictively  awarded 
sixteen  months’  imprisonment.  The  self-exile  of  Congress 
leaders  delighted  the  communalists  who  made  no  bones  about 
inciting  their  fanatical  co-religionists  to  violence.  Cities  like 
Dacca,  Ahmedabad  and  Bombay  were  convulsed  with 
communal  clashes,  the  outbreak  in  the  last-named  city  being 
noteworthy  for  its  unbridled  savagery.  Bombay,  it  must  be 

* Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  pp.  402-403. 

The  War 


remembered,  was  the  home  town  of  the  future  founder  of 

Munshi  noted  that  the  aim  of  the  new  type  of  frenzy  was 
to  terrorise  the  majority  community  into  acquiescing  in  the 
division  of  the  country.  He  wrote:  “Against  this  mounting 
onslaught  of  communal  frenzy  in  the  country  directed  towards 
the  Hindus,  the  Congress,  under  Gandhiji’s  leadership,  could 
offer  no  protection,  much  less  resistance.  I  boiled  with  rage  at 
our  impotence”.* 

The  growing  turbulence  of  the  Muslim  League  forced 
Munshi  to  give  serious  thought  to  the  whole  concept  of  non¬ 
violence,  the  sheet-anchor  of  Gandhian  philosophy. 
He  had  the  greatest  respect  for  Mahatma  Gandhi. 
He  wrote:  “Every  man  who  has  met  Gandhiji  has  felt  that  there 
is  something  nobler,  greater  in  the  man  than  in  anything  that  he 
says  or  does.  Every  time  I  meet  him,  I  find  that  he  is  bigger  than 
his  biggest  deeds”.  Even  so,  he  found  that  it  was  impossible  for 
him  to  owe  absolute  allegiance  to  the  doctrine  of  non-violence, 
especially  when  violence  and  hatred  were  rife  in  the  country.  It 
was  indeed  impossible  for  him  to  abjure  the  use  of  force  for 
self-defence.  He  maintained  that  resistance  was  the  essence  of 
individual  and  corporate  growth.  “If  one  did  not  resist,”  he 
wrote,  “one  would  become  worse  than  a  weed”.  He  was, 
however,  not  alone  in  holding  such  views.  Leaders  like  Motilal 
Nehru,  Jawaharlal  Nehru,  C.R.  Das,  Lala  Lajpat  Rai,  Maulana 
Azad  and  Acharya  Kriplani  saw  the  obvious  limitations  of  non¬ 
violence  and  refused  to  accept  it  as  an  immutable  dogma. 

Munshi’ s  Akhand  Hindustan  or  United  India  front  would 
have  won  popularity  and  would  probably  have  developed  into 

* Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  1,  p.  75. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

a  movement  if  the  Mahatma  had  allowed  him  to  go  his  own 
way.  Sir  Mirza  Ismail,  the  popular  Dewan  of  Mysore,  who 
declined  to  walk  into  Jinnah’s  parlour,  suggested  to  Munshi  to 
replace  the  Sanskrit  word  “Akhand”  by  a  suitable  Urdu 
equivalent.  While  he  was  thus  engaged  in  mobilising  public 
opinion  against  communal  politics,  Mahadev  Desai,  Mahatma 
Gandhi’s  Secretary,  issued  a  clarification  which  had  a  dampening 
effect  on  Munshi ’s  movement.  Desai  said  that  Munshi  had  left 
the  Congress  because  he  had  no  faith  in  non-violence.  Those 
Congressmen  who  had  faith  in  non-violence,  but  found  it 
impossible  to  implement  it,  should  not  leave  the  party.  Munshi 
writes:  “Suddenly,  those  who  had  promised  to  come  out  with 
me,  accepted  this  explanation  and  stayed  with  the  Congress. 
That  is  how  I  began  my  lone  campaign  for  Akhand  Hindustan”. 
The  political  deadlock  in  the  country  deeply  distressed  all 
patriotic  and  right  thinking  Indians.  Non-party  leaders, 
distinguished  for  their  intellectual  abilities  and  devotion  to  their 
motherland,  met  in  Bombay  in  March  1941  under  the 
presidentship  of  Sir  Tej  Bahadur  Sapru  and  put  forward  an 
eminently  reasonable  proposal  to  end  the  political  stalemate,  but 
it  was  unceremoniously  rejected  by  L.  S.  Amery,  Secretary  of 
State  for  India.  Mighty  events  in  the  Far  East,  leading  to 
spectacular  victories  by  Japanese  over  the  Allied  forces, 
compelled  Whitehall  to  make  a  gesture  of  conciliation  to  India. 
Sir  Stafford  Crisps,  Lord  Privy  Seal  and  Leader  of  the  House 
of  Commons,  arrived  in  India  on  March  22,  1942,  with  British 
proposals  to  settle  the  Indian  political  question.  Cripps  was 
known  as  India’s  friend  and  well-wisher. 

The  British  proposals,  published  on  March  30,  envisaged 
the  elevation  of  India  to  the  status  of  a  Dominion  and  provided 
for  the  creation  of  a  Constituent  Assembly  immediately  after  the 
war  for  framing  a  Dominion  Constitution.  Representatives  of 

The  War 


Princely  States  would  be  entitled  to  participate  in  the  deliberations 
of  the  constitution-making  body.  At  the  same  time,  every 
province  would  be  at  liberty  not  to  accept  the  constitution, 
although  the  door  could  be  kept  open  for  its  admission  if  it 
chose  to  come  in  later.  The  non-acceding  provinces  could  frame 
their  own  instrument  of  government  and  secure  for  themselves 
the  same  status  as  the  Indian  Dominion.  Like  the  provinces,  the 
five  hundred  odd  States  could  also  decide  to  cherish  their  so- 
called  independence  in  isolation.  It  would,  however,  be 
necessary  to  negotiate  a  revision  of  their  treaties  “so  far  as  may 
be  required  in  the  new  situation”.  All  these  arrangements  were 
to  take  effect  only  after  the  war.  Clearly,  the  aim  of  the  British 
scheme  was  not  merely  to  satisfy  nationalist  opinion  but  also  to 
conciliate  the  communalists  and  the  conservative  Princely 
Order.  As  Nehru  put  it,  “the  whole  background  would  be  of 
separatism  and  the  real  problems  of  the  country,  economic  or 
political,  would  take  secondary  place”.* 

Nevertheless,  the  Congress  entered  into  long  drawn  out 
negotiations  with  Cripps  in  the  hope  that  a  workable  basis  could 
be  found  for  its  resumption  of  the  responsibilities  of  government. 
The  points  at  issue  were  mainly  two,  namely,  the  extent  to  which 
the  British  Government  was  prepared  to  transfer  the  responsibility 
for  the  defence  of  India  to  an  Indian  member  of  the  Viceroy’s 
Executive  Council.  Secondly  it  wanted  to  know  whether  the 
Indianised  Viceroy’s  Executive  Council  would  be  permitted  to 
function  like  a  full-fledged  cabinet  with  the  Governor-General 
strictly  playing  the  part  of  a  constitutional  head.  Cripps  at  first 
stated  emphatically  that  “power  would  rest  with  the  Council  as  it 
rests  with  the  British  Cabinet”.  It  was  further  contemplated  to  do 

*The  Discovery  of  India  by  Jawaharlal  Nehru,  Signet  Press,  1946, 
p.  550. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

with  the  India  Office  in  London  from  where  the  affairs  of  this 
country  were  being  rigidly  controlled.  These  heart  warming 
assurances  were  given  by  the  British  Minister  on  March  29,  but 
later  be  withdrew  them  under  pressure  from  Whitehall. 

Lord  Listowell,  the  last  Secretary  of  State  for  India 
writes:  “I  was  disillusioned  to  find  that  the  Labour  representatives 
on  the  (India)  Committee  were  so  subservient  to  Churchill  and 
that  Attlee,  as  Chairman  was  never  more  than  a  muted  echo  of 
his  master’s  voice”.  He  adds:  “Of  they  wanted  to  prevent  the 
break  up  of  the  Coalition  ment  while  the  war  was  on,  and  what 
else  mattered  when  our  survival  was  at  stake  ?”* *  Lord  Wavell 
recorded  in  his  Diary  on  July  27,  1943,  thus:  “He  (PM)  hates  and 
everything  to  do  with  it,  and  as  Amery  said  in  a  he  pushed  across 
to  me,  ‘knows  as  much  of  the  Indian  blem  as  George  III  did  of 
the  American  colonies?”  Any  thought  of  freeing  India  drove  this 
high  priest  of  B  imperialism  into  mad  fury.  Anthony  Eden  wrote 
thus  his  Memoirs:  “Churchill  said :  ‘What  a  calamity  it  would  be 
to  win  the  war  and  lose  India’”.*  The  Cripps  Mission  was  thus 
foredoomed  to  failure.  President  Roosevelt  was  unconvinced  by 
the  British  Government’s  explanation  for  its  failure.  The  President 
told  Churchill  that  a  settlement  with  India  was  still  possible.# 

The  Congress  had  good  reason  to  be  dissatisfied  with  the 
British  proposals  but  it  should  have  accepted  them  for  what  they 

*  The  Whitehall  Dimension  of  the  Transfer  of  Power  by  Listowell 
(Indo-British  Review),  Volume  VII,  Numbers  3  &  4  At  the  time  this  article 
was  written,  the  author  was  survivor  of  those  Ministers  who  served  on 
the  India  of  both  the  Churchill  and  Attlee  Governments. 

#Wavel:  The  Viceroy's  Journal  edited  by  Penderel  Moon,  p.  12 

*The  Rt.  Hon.  The  Earl  of  Avon,  The  Eden  Memoirs:  The  Reekoning, 
Cassell,  p.  383. 

#  Roosevelt  and  Hopkins  by  Robert  E.  Sherwood,  A  Bantom  Giant,  1950, 
pp.  108-109. 

The  War 


were  worth  by  taking  into  consideration  the  prevailing  situation  in 
the  country.  Not  all  the  Congressmen  favoured  the  rejection  of 
the  British  offer.  C.  Rajagopalachari  advocated  its  acceptance. 
From  the  time  the  Pearl  Harbour  was  attacked  by  the  Japanese 
in  December  1941 ,  Munshi  persistently  pleaded  for  co-operating 
with  the  British  in  facing  the  new  menace.  In  several  statements 
in  January  1942,  he  appealed  for  the  combination  of  all  parties  in 
“a  Government  with  plenary  power  at  the  Centre”.  He  pointed 
out  that  India  preferred  Britain,  a  European  Power,  to  Japan,  an 
Asian  country,  because  it  saw  “in  Britain’s  victory  alone  the 
possibility  of  an  honoured  place  for  India  in  an  international 
committee  of  free  nations”.  He  strongly  advocated  the  acceptance 
of  the  Cripps  offer  and  presented  his  point  of  view  at  length 
before  Mahatma  Gandhi.  “I  made  no  impression  on  him”,  Munshi 
wrote,  “Gandhiji  was  slowly  moving  towards  the  mahatmatic 
stand  of  the  apostle  of  non-violence  and  would  not  think  of 
participation  in  the  war.** 

The  “Quit  India”  movement  launched  by  the  Congress  in 
August  1942  under  Mahatma  Gandhi’s  leadership  proved 
disastrous  to  India’s  immemoral  integrity.  It  cemented  the 
alliance  between  the  bureaucrats  and  the  communalists.  It  was 
the  twilight  of  the  Raj  and  even  hardened  imperialists  like 
Linlithgow  and  Reginald  Maxwell — the  latter  called  the  Congress 
the  “enemy” — were  convinced  that  the  fate  of  their  empire  in 
India  was  sealed.  Since  they  were  going,  it  mattered  little  to 
them  what  happened  to  this  country  after  they  left.  They 
decided  to  win  the  gratitude  of  the  communalists  by  giving 
support  to  their  secessionist  movement  Jinnah  and  his  men  thus 
became  the  greatest  beneficiaries  of  the  August  campaign.  It 
was  a  busy  time  for  Munshi.  The  Government  promulgated  a 

** Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.M.  Munshi,  Volume  1,  pp.  78-79. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

number  of  ordinances  to  suppress  the  popular  uprising  and  to 
hold  nationalist  India  in  duress.  Civil  liberties  were  assailed  and 
large  number  of  arrested  persons  were  denied  the  right  of 
presenting  habeas  corpus  writ  petitions.  Gathering  around  him 
a  band  of  competent  young  lawyers,  Munshi  moved  up  and 
down  the  country  defending  the  innocent  persons.  As  we  saw 
in  chapter  Three,  he  conducted,  in  the  words  of  Justice  J.  N. 
Shelat,  “a  veritable  crusade  in  defence  of  personal  liberty  and 
political  rights”. 


The  Partition 

(i)  Gandhi-Jinnah  Talks 

T'HERE  WAS  COUNTRYWIDE  opposition  to  the  plan 
for  dividing  India  but  it  was  never  organised  into  a  decisive 
movement.  The  Congress  concentrated  its  efforts  more  on 
wresting  power  from  the  British  than  on  devising  measures  to 
counter  the  Muslim  League’s  separatist  propaganda.  The  Hindu 
Mahasabha,  the  Nationalist  Muslims,  the  Sikhs,  the  Liberals 
and  several  others  expressed  themselves  strongly  in  favour  of 
preserving  India’s  geographical  unity,  but  theirs  was  a  voice  in 
the  wilderness.  Munshi  had  thus  to  contend  with  tremendous 
difficulties  when  campaigning  for  Akhand  Hindustan,  but  he 
never  wavered  in  his  resolve  to  save  the  country  from  the  grim 
prospect  of  vivisection.  He  met  a  number  of  non-Muslim 
League  leaders  during  his  tour  of  the  country  and  addressed 
many  meetings  to  convey  the  message  of  India’s  immemorial 
territorial  integrity.  He  explained:  “Akhand  Hindustan  is  not  a 
political  question  nor  is  it  a  religious  one.  The  unity  and  integrity 
of  India  is  a  vital  necessity  for  the  existence  of  all  communities 
in  this  country”. 

Munshi  was  heartened  by  the  evidence  that  the  saner 
elements  in  the  country  belonging  to  all  religions  and  regions 
were  opposed  to  its  division.  During  his  visit  to  Ludhiana  in  the 
Punjab  he  spent  a  day  with  the  scholarly  Muslim,  Mufti  Moulvi 
Mahomed  Naeem,  who  combined  piety  with  learning.  The 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Mufti  told  Munshi  that  patriotism  ran  in  the  veins  of  the 
members  of  his  family.  “My  father”,  he  said,  “a  great  Moulvi, 
was  a  Congressman.  He  was  one  of  the  Ulemas  who  laid 
down,  first  in  1885,  th c  fatwa  that  a  Muslim  can  join  the 
Congress  and  work  out  national  redemption  for  India.  I  intend 
to  die  one  day  as  a  Congressman”.  Taking  Munshi  with  him  to 
a  nearby  place,  he  addressed  a  public  meeting  when  he  said:  “I 
am  an  Indian.  I  am  a  Mussalman.  I  cannot  be  asked  to  choose 
between  the  one  or  the  other.  Both  have  brought  me  into 
existence,  and  my  loyalty  to  each  is  the  source  of  my  strength 
serving  for  both”.* 

Munshi  also  met  a  number  of  other  leaders.  When  he  was 
in  Delhi,  Dr.  Shyama  Prasad  Mookerjee  called  on  him  and  told 
him  about  the  talks  he  had  with  Jinnah.  The  latter  had  told  him 
that  the  Muslim  League  would  support  the  demand  for  national 
freedom  if  the  Hindus  agreed  to  the  partition  of  India  in 
principle.  Jinnah,  however,  insisted  that  his  promise  should  be 
kept  a  close  secret.  Dr.  Mookerjee  was  too  seasoned  a 
politician  to  walk  into  his  trap.  Apart  from  the  fact  that  it  was 
impossible  for  the  Hindus  to  agree  to  India’s  division,  Jinnah’s 
plea  for  secrecy  was  of  great  significance.  He  knew  that  his 
influence  with  the  government  would  collapse  like  a  house  of 
cards  the  moment  he  chose  to  make  common  cause  with  the 
nationalists.  He  was  only  making  an  adroit  move  to  win  Hindu 
approval  to  his  separatist  politics.  In  response  to  Savarkar’s 
invitation,  Munshi  addressed  the  Working  Committee  of  the 
Hindu  Mahasabha.  He  told  that  body  that  the  communal  riots 
provoked  by  the  Muslim  League  to  coerce  the  majority 
community  into  agreeing  to  India’s  partition  could  be  stopped 
only  by  organising  an  effective  resistance  which,  he  said,  the 

*  Akhand  Hindustan  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  pp.  86,  87. 

The  Partition 


Congress,  under  Mahatma  Gandhi’s  leadership,  would  not  do. 
A  leader  with  a  command  over  the  mass  mind  alone  could 
transform  such  resistance  into  an  irresistible  movement.  No  such 
leadership,  he  pointed  out,  was  in  sight.* 

To  rouse  the  civilized  conscience  of  the  world  on  India’s 
continued  subjection,  Mahatma  Gandhi  went  on  a  fast  for 
twenty-one  days  from  February  10,  1943.  He  was  then 
seventy-three  years  old  and  there  was  a  wide  feeling  that  his 
feeble  body  would  not  survive  the  ordeal.  Nine  days  after  he 
had  begun  the  fast,  an  All-Party  Leaders’  Conference  pleaded 
with  the  Government  to  set  the  Mahatma  free.  In  protest  against 
the  Government’s  obstinacy,  three  members  of  the  Viceroy’s 
Executive  Council,  namely,  M.  S.  Aney,  Sir  Homi  Mody  and 
Nalini  Ranjan  Sarkar,  resigned  from  their  office.  Much  to  the 
consternation  of  the  imperialists,  the  Mahatma  emerged  unscathed 
from  his  terrible  experience.  In  his  report  to  President 
Roosevelt,  William  Phillips,  the  President’s  personal  representative 
in  India,  presented  a  true  picture  of  the  state  of  India  at  that 
time.  He  saw  “inertia,  prostration,  divided  counsels  and 
helplessness,  with  growing  distrust  and  dislike  for  the  British, 
and  disappointment  and  disillusion  with  regard  to  Americans”. 

On  March  3,  1943,  some  of  the  leaders  met  in  Bombay  to 
take  stock  of  the  situation.  They  included,  Sir  Tej  Bahadur 
Sapru,  M.  R.  Jayakar,  C.  Rajagopalachari,  M.  S.  Aney  and 
Munshi.  The  last  named  leader  was  requested  to  arrange  for  a 
full-fledged  Conference  of  non-party  leaders  on  March  9. 
Invitations  were  sent  out  to  some  thirty-five  persons  who  had 
made  their  mark  in  various  fields  of  national  activity.  After  two 
days’  deliberations,  the  assembled  leaders  resolved  to  request 
the  Viceroy  to  permit  some  of  them  to  meet  Mahatma  Gandhi 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  84. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

as  a  step  towards  promoting  the  much-needed  reconciliation 
between  the  Congress  and  the  Government.  Those  who  had 
met  the  Mahatma  earlier  had  come  away  with  the  impression 
that  he  would  gladly  help  in  this  process.  Forwarding  a  copy  of 
the  resolution  to  the  Viceroy’s  Secretary,  Sir  Glibert  Laithwhite, 
Sapru  said  that  a  delegation  of  four  leaders,  namely,  C. 
Rajagopalachari,  G.  D.  Birla,  Sir  Ardeshir  Dalai  or  Sir 
Purshottamdas  Thakurdas  and  K.  M.  Munshi  would  like  to 
meet  the  Viceroy.  On  receiving  a  favourable  reply,  Sapru  asked 
Munshi  to  prepare  a  memo-  randum  to  be  presented  to  the 
Viceroy.  Munshi’s  professional  commitments  prevented  him 
from  drafting  the  document  at  short  notice.  It  was  written  by 
Rajagopalachari  and  was  duly  approved. 

At  the  outset,  the  Memorandum  requested  the  Viceroy  to 
permit  some  of  the  non-party  leaders  to  meet  Mahatma  Gandhi 
“to  ascertain  authoritatively  his  reactions  to  the  events  which 
have  happened  since  his  arrest  and  to  explore  with  him  avenues 
for  reconciliation”.  If  the  Viceroy  had  any  objections  to  their 
interviewing  Gandhi,  he  should  state  them  so  that  they  might 
meet  them.  The  members  of  the  proposed  delegation  felt  that 
the  Mahatma  had  already  expressed  his  disapproval  of  violence 
and  sabotage.  They  were  convinced  that  he  would  “cast  his 
influence  on  the  side  of  internal  harmony  and  reconciliation”. 
The  Mahatma’s  good  offices  and  guidance  were  necessary  in 
resolving  the  various  issues,  including  the  Hindu-Muslim  problem. 
If,  by  ignoring  these  facts,  the  Viceroy  did  not  see  his  way  to 
allow  them  to  interview  Gandhi,  his  refusal  would  be  construed 
as  “a  determination  on  the  part  of  Great  Britain  that  there  should 
be  no  attempt  at  a  settlement  of  the  problem  and  no 
reconciliation,  between  Nationalist  India  and  Britain”.  The 
eminent  leaders’  plea  fell  on  deaf  ears. 

The  Partition 


When  Linlithgow  laid  down  his  office  on  October  20,1943, 
none  felt  more  relieved  than  the  nationalists.  Nehru  described 
him  as  a  man  with  all  the  failings  of  an  old-fashioned  British 
aristocrat.  The  verdict  of  Sir  Tej  Bahadur  Sapru,  the  much- 
esteemed  liberal  statesman,  on  the  outgoing  Viceroy  was 
conclusive.  He  said:  “Today,  I  say,  after  seven  years  of  Lord 
Linlithgow’s  administration,  the  country  is  much  more  divided 
than  it  was  when  he  came  here”.  Churchill  was  faced  with  the 
problem  of  finding  out  a  suitable  incumbent  to  the  vacant 
Viceroyalty.  He  wanted  a  man  in  New  Delhi  who  would  obey 
Whitehall’s  directives  both  in  the  letter  and  in  the  spirit. 
For  sometime  he  toyed  with  the  idea  of  sending  out  to  India  his 
most  trusted  junior  colleague,  Anthony  Eden,  saying  that  he 
alone  could  protect  the  glittering  Indian  jewel  in  the  diadem  of 
His  Imperial  Majesty.  With  Eden  declining  the  offer  with 
thanks,  the  Prime  Minister  overcame  his  dilemma  by  selecting 
General  Wavell,  former  Commander-in-Chief  of  India,  as 
Linlithgow’s  successor.  Wavell  was  a  great  soldier  with  a  touch 
of  martial  genius.  He  was  well-disposed  towards  India  but 
was  helpless. 

While  the  imperialists  and  the  communalists  were  busy  with 
their  conspiracy,  the  miseries  of  the  Mahatma  under  detention 
were  mounting.  Soon  after  his  arrest  in  August  1942,  his  trusted 
Secretary,  Mahadev  Desai,  who  was  perhaps  far  more  devoted 
to  him  than  Boswell  was  to  Johnson,  passed  away.  Two  years 
later,  on  February  22,  1944,  the  Mahatma  suffered  another 
grievous  bereavement  by  the  death  of  his  wife,  Kasturba,  a 
simple  but  lion-hearted  woman  who  had  been  the  staff  of  his  life 
from  his  early  years.  In  April,  he  himself  was  laid  up  with  a 
severe  malaria  which  made  recovery  most  difficult.  In  these 
circumstances,  it  was  impossible  for  the  Government  to  persist 


K.  M.  Munshi 

in  holding  him  in  duress.  He  was  accordingly  released 
unconditionally  on  May  6  on  medical  grounds.* 

Soon  after  his  release  Mahatma  Gandhi  asked  Bhulabhai 
Desai,  V.  F.  Taraporewala  and  Munshi  to  examine  the  question 
whether  the  authority  conferred  on  him  by  the  August  8,  1942, 
resolution  of  the  All-India  Congress  Commitee  to  “start  a  mass 
struggle  on  non-violent  lines”  stilt  subsisted,  apart  from  the 
legality  or  otherwise  of  the  purpose  for  which  the  authority  was 
given.  The  three  legal  experts  held  that  the  authority  given  to  the 
Mahatma  was  intended  to  be  exercised  in  the  situation  that 
existed  then.  He  was  arrested  and  was  thus  prevented  from 
acting  on  the  resolution.  The  experts  concluded  their  note  thus: 
“The  authority  conferred  upon  him  was  neither  permanent  nor 
recurring  and  there  can  be  no  question  of  its  revival  by  the 
recent  release  of  Gandhi  ji  in  the  present  situation”. 

The  Mahatma,  whose  health  was  shattered,  was  convalescing 
at  a  nature  cure  clinic  in  Poona  when  Munshi  met  him.  The  latter 
had  received  an  urgent  letter  from  Sir  Bakshi  Tekchand,  former 
Chief  Justice  of  the  Punjab  High  Court  and  leader  of  the  Hindus 
in  that  province,  asking  whether  Gandhi  had  endorsed 
C.  Rajagopalachari’s  formula  for  ending  the  estrangement 
between  the  Congress  and  the  Muslim  League  on  India’s 
constitutional  future.  Since  the  failure  of  the  Cripps  Mission,  the 
Southern  leader  had  been  giving  much  attention  to  the  problem 
of  promoting  a  rapproachment  between  the  two  parties.  He 
evolved  a  formula  and,  after  getting  it  approved  by  the 
Congress  members  of  the  Madras  Legislature,  brought  it  before 
the  All  India  Congress  Committee  on  April  29,  1942.  It  was 

*  Waved’ s  Journal  dated  July  5,  1944,  reads  :  “Winston  sent  me  a 
peevish  telegram  to  ask  why  Gandhi  hadn’t  died  yet!”  (Wavell:  The 
Viceroy’s  Diary  edited  by  Penderel  Moon,  p.  78). 

The  Partition 


rejected  by  that  body.  He  was,  however,  not  daunted  by  this 
rebuff  and  continued  to  canvass  support  for  his  prescription. 

Rajagopalachari  met  Gandhi  in  June  1943  and  showed  his 
scheme  to  the  Mahatma  who  was  then  detained  in 
the  Aga  Khan  Palace  at  Poona.  Rajagopalachari  was  Munshi’s 
guest  at  that  time  and  on  his  return  gave  his  host  “the  rather 
stunning  information  that  Gandhiji  had  looked  with  favour  upon 
his  formula  of  Partition”.  Munshi  drew  up  his  own  reactions  to 
the  C.R.  scheme  in  the  form  of  a  statement  which  he  sent  to 
Gandhi  for  approval  on  the  eve  of  the  latter’s’  meeting  with 
Jinnah  in  September  1944.  He  pointed  out  that  in  the  past  the 
slogan  of  Hindu-Muslim  unity  was  invented  to  win  Swaraj;  it 
was  now  being  shouted  to  achieve  independence  and  Pakistan. 
“Experience”,  he  wrote,  “has  shown  that  concession  wrung 
alternately  from  the  Nationalists  and  the  British  has  been  one 
wave  rolling  after  another  towards  a  goal  which  is  visible  to  all 
except  those  who  do  not  wish  to  see”.  The  champions  of 
separation  would  not  be  satisfied  with  the  creation  of  a  new 
State  based  strictly  on  the  Muslim  majority  areas.  They  would 
demand  lebensraum  in  the  predominantly  Hindu  districts.  He 
could  understand  the  Hindu  and  Muslim  majority  provinces 
coming  together  under  a  federal  system,  the  federating  units 
enjoying  a  considerable  measure  of  autonomy,  but  a  total 
secession  was  unthinkable.  The  Princely  States  would  not 
endorse  India’s  partition. 

Munshi’s  statement  called  attention  to  lost  opportunities.  It 
said:  “We  had  ministries;  we  flung  them  away.  We  had  the 
certainty  of  federal  unity  under  the  Act  of  1935;  we  spumed  it. 
We  had  the  Cripps’  offer  to  fight  our  way  to  higher  international 
status  shoulder  to  shoulder;  we  laughed  at  it”.  It  was  no  longer 
easy  to  resist  the  two-nation  theory.  The  Mahatma’s  impending 
meeting  with  Jinnah  would  strengthen  that  theory.  Gandhi,  the 


K.  M.  Munshi 

statement  further  said,  had  great  faith  in  non-violence;  he  was  a 
miracle-maker  who  believed  that  he  could  avert  the  country’s 
disruption.  Munshi  confessed  that  he  lacked  that  faith.  In 
deference  to  the  Mahatma’s  wishes,  he  did  not  go  to  the  press 
to  explain  his  opposition  to  the  C.R  formula.  His  statement 
remained  unpublished.  Jinnah,  who  received  the  C.R.  formula  in 
April,  1944,  denounced  it  in  unmeasured  language. 

Gandhi’s  proposed  talks  with  Jinnah  in  September  1944 
created  countrywide  interest.  Munshi  received  a  number  of 
letters  from  many  distinguished  persons,  expressing  their 
concern  over  the  possible  outcome  of  the  Gandhi-Jinnah 
meeting.  Munshi  wrote  to  the  Mahatma  apprising  him  of  their 
views  and  of  his  own  apprehensions  about  the  September 
parleys.  In  his  letter  of  August  9,  he  informed  Gandhi  that  the 
Punjab  Premier,  Sir  Khizr  Hyat  Khan’s  man  met  him  to  say  that 
no  commitments  should  be  made  with  Jinnah  about  that 
province.  He,  the  Premier,  was  not  concerned  with  whatever 
transelse  Gandhi  did.  The  Governor,  Sir  Bertrand  Glancy,  Sir 
Mohammed  Zafrullah  Khan,  later  a  Judge  of  the  International 
Court  of  Justice,  and  Sir  Sultan  Ahmed,  Member  of  the 
Viceroy’s  Executive  Council,  were  on  Sir  Khizr’s  side.  The 
Hindu  Minister  of  Punjab,  Sir  Chhoturam,  and  many  of  his  co¬ 
religionists  were  profoundly  disturbed  over  the  new' 
developments.  The  Sikhs  were  also  perturbed  and  the  Alkali 
leader,  Master  Tara  Singh,  favoured  Akhand  Hindustan.  Munshi 
told  the  Mahatma  that  Jinnah  was  holding  “several  secret 

Munshi  took  the  opportunity  of  reiterating  his  conviction 
that  India  was  indivisible.  If,  however,  partition  became 
inevitable,  only  the  areas  having  Muslim  majority  in  India  should 
constitute  themselves  into  separate  units.  In  that  event,  the 
separation  of  non-Muslim  districts  in  the  Punjab  and  Bengal 

The  Partition 


would  become  inevitable.  He  was  not  sure  whether  the 
Mahatma’s  campaign  for  Hindu-Muslim  unity,  which  had 
yielded  no  results  for  twenty-five  years,  would  now  be 
successful.  Munshi  wrote:  “By  supporting  the  Rajaji  formula  you 
have  been  able  to  prove  your  readiness  to  arrive  at  a  communal 
settlement.  Jinnah’s  ambition  of  25  years  to  determine  the  future 
of  India  in  partnership  with  you  is  fulfilled”.  In  a  note  dictated 
to  Munshi ’s  son,  Mahatma  Gandhi  said  that  the  division  of  India 
was  like  poison  to  him  besides  being  sinful.  He  did  not  see 
much  wrong  with  the  Rajagopalachari  scheme.  If  there  could  be 
a  separate  treaty  on  Defence,  Foreign  Affairs  and 
Communications,  there  was  no  harm  in  giving  Jinnah  the  rest. 
“After  all  this”,  Gandhi  said,  “Pakistan  seems  to  have  no 
meaning’’.  He  thought  that  Jinnah,  despite  his  selfishness  and 
vanity,  had  complete  faith  in  him.  In  addition  to  this  note,  Gandhi 
wrote  to  Munshi  on  August  12,  calling  his  attention  to  the  fact 
that  he,  the  Mahatma,  was  the  originator  of  the  Congress 
principle  of  self-determination.  He  said:  “A  believer  in  non¬ 
violence,  I  can  maintain  the  unity  of  India  only  if 
I  accept  the  freedom  of  every  part”.  He,  however,  thought  that 
the  Pakistan  of  Jinnah’s  conception  was  sinful.  Two  days  later, 
Munshi  conveyed  to  the  Mahatma  his  conviction  that  his  talks 
with  Jinnah  would  not  be  fruitful. 

The  much-awaited  talks  between  the  two  leaders  began  at 
the  Bombay  residence  of  Jinnah  on  September  9  and  lasted  for 
eighteen  days.  Jinnah  stated  his  thesis  in  this  unbridled  language: 
“We  maintain  and  hold  that  Muslims  and  Hindus  are  two 
different  nations  by  any  definition  or  test  ot  a  nation.  We  are  a 
nation  with  our  own  distinctive  culture  and  civilization,  language 
and  literature,  art,  architecture,  names  and  nomenclature,  sense 
of  value  and  proposition,  legal  laws  and  moral  codes,  Customes 
and  calendar,  history  and  traditions,  aptitudes  and  ambitions — 


K.  M.  Munshi 

in  short,  we  have  our  own  distinctive  outlook  on  life  and  of  life. 
By  all  canons  of  international  law  we  are  a  nation”.  Gandhi 
tersely  dismissed  this  vehe-ment  assertion  with  the  remark:  “I 
find  no  parallel  in  history  for  a  body  of  converts  and  their 
descendants  claiming  to  be  a  nation  apart  from  the  parent 
stock”.  If  Jinnah  had  held  the  views  he  now  so  strongly 
expressed  twenty  or  thirty  years  before,  it  stands  to  reason  that 
he  would  not  have  risen  to  eminence  either  as  a  politician  or  as 
a  lawyer.  He  built  up  his  practice  and  reputation  as  an  advocate 
almost  entirely  by  handling  cases  involving  the  interpretation  of 
Hindu  Law.  His  belated  discovery  that  he  belonged  to  a 
different  nation  and  that  he  was  not  an  Indian  at  all  could  only 
be  attributed  to  hurt  pride  and  overweening  personal  ambition. 

The  Gandhi-Jinnah  talks  failed.  Thenceforward  the  Muslim 
masses  began  to  look  upon  Jinnah  as  their  Messiah.  Many 
leaders  deplored  the  Mahatma’s  going  to  the  implacable 
opponent  of  Indian  nationalism.  Maulana  Azad  regretted  his 
calling  Jinnah  “Quid-i-Azam”  or  great  leader.  He  was  convinced 
that  Gandhi  was  wrong  in  opening  correspondence  with  the 
League  leader  and  going  to  Bombay  to  meet  him.  Sardar  Patel 
was  equally  unhappy  about  it.  Munshi  was,  of  course,  opposed 
to  the  Gandhian  move.  He  knew  that  Jinnah  was  “inflexible  in 
his  objective”. 

(ii)  The  Holocaust 

At  that  time  Jinnah  had  not  yet  reached  the  summit 
of  his  negative  power.  His  hold  over  the  areas  claimed  as  part 
of  Pakistan  was  still  tenuous.  It  is  true  that  he  was  popular 
among  the  Muslims  of  the  Hindu-majority  provinces,  but  this 
fact  in  no  way  advanced  the  cause  of  partition.  Till  Gandhi  held 
his  September  parleys  with  him,  the  concept  of  Pakistan  mostly 
figured  in  platform  oratory,  in  poetic  imagination  and  in  ill- 
informed  and  grossly  partisan  political  literature.  From  then  on, 

The  Partition 


however,  the  situation  began  to  change  rapidly,  making  any 
rational  solution  of  the  constitutional  problem'  almost  impossible. 
Sir  Tej  Bahadur  Sapru  and  his  Liberal  colleagues,  however, 
refused  to  surrender  to  despair.  In  October  1944,  Sapru  drew 
Gandhi’s  attention  to  the  growing  talk  about  the  country  drifting 
towards  a  civil  war.  To  avert  such  a  tragedy,  he  and  his 
colleagues  formed  a  Conciliation  Committee  in  December  to 
recommend  an  equitable  settlement  of  the  political  problem.  The 
Committee’s  suggestion  were  most  constructive  but  they  were 
rejected  by  Jinnah  out  of  hand. 

The  Viceroy,  Lord  Wavell,  was  convinced  that  a  prolonged 
political  stalemate  would  not  do  any  good  to  India.  He  had 
hoped  that  the  Bombay  talks  between  Gandhi  and  Jinnah  would 
yield  some  results.  “The  two  great  mountains”,  he  wrote,  “have 
met  and  not  even  a  ridiculous  mouse  has  emerged”.  He  waited 
for  the  non-party  leaders’  deliberations  before  making  his  own 
move.  Their  denunciation  by  Jinnah  and  Amery  rendered  them 
ineffective.  At  his  instance,  Bhulabhai  Desai,  leader  of  the 
Congress  Party  in  the  Central  Legislature,  opened  negotiations 
with  Nawabzada  Liaqat  Ali  Khan,  Deputy  Leader  of  the 
Muslim  League  in  that  Legislature,  to  promote  a  political 
understanding  on  the  formation  of  an  interim  government.  The 
two  leaders  entered  into  a  pact,  according  to  which  Jinnah  and 
Desai  should  be  invited  to  form  the  government.  Bhulabhai 
Desai  showed  Munshi  the  draft  agreement  initiated  by  Liaqat  Ali 
Khan.  Gandhi  also  saw  it  and  “made  a  cryptic  remark  which 
Bhulabhai  construed  as  authorising  him  to  go  ahead”.  Both 
Jinnah  and  his  lieutenant  later  disowned  the  agreement,  the  one 
saying  that  he  knew  nothing  about  it  and  the  other  asserting  that 
whatever  he  had  said  about  the  move  was  based  on  his 
“personal  view”.  Commenting  on  this  episode,  Munshi  who,  as 
we  saw  in  an  earlier  chapter,  was  close  to  Desai,  wrote: 
“Bhulabhai  had  a  lively  sense  of  his  own  in  fallibility  and  a  low 


K.  M.  Munshi 

opinion  of  most  of  the  top  Congress  leaders.  He  was  naturally 
very  anxious  to  solve  the  political  impasse  in  the  country  and 
walked  into  the  trap  laid  by  his  friend,  Liaqat  All”.  Desai  failed 
to  take  the  precautions  suggested  by  the  Mahatma.  The 
omission  angered  Gandhi  and  Congress  leadership  and  brought 
about  his  political  downfall.  His  name  was  not  included  in  the  list 
of  Congress  members  for  the  interim  government  suggested  at 
the  Simla  Conference  of  June  1945.  In  August  both  Bhulabhai 
Desai  and  Munshi  were  staying  at  Birla  House  in  New  Delhi  in 
connection  with  the  trial  of  the  ex-members  of  the  Indian 
National  Army  at  the  Red  Fort.  Desai’ s  defence  of  the  I.N.A. 
prisoners  was  superb  and,  as  Munshi  put  it,  “his  reputation  as 
a  lawyer  rose  sky-high”.  But  the  brilliant  lawyer  and 
parliamentarian  was  a  dying  man.  In  his  last  days,  he  bitterly 
complained  to  Munshi  that  he  had  been  betrayed.  “Thus 
ended”,  writes  Munshi,  “the  career  of  a  man  of  unparalleled 
intelligence  and  uncanny  subtlety.  I  never  could  forget  that  I 
learned  the  art  of  advocacy  at  his  feet”.* 

After  consultations  with  the  British  Government,  the 
Viceroy  announced  on  June  14,  1945,  proposals  for  easing  “the 
present  political  situation  and  to  advance  India  towards  her  goal 
of  full  self-government”.  The  Wavell  Plan,  as  it  is  called, 
envisaged  the  complete  Indianisation  of  the  Viceroy’s  Executive 
Council  except  the  office  of  the  Viceroy  himself  and  of  the 
Commander-in-Chief.  The  external  affairs,  so  far  held  by  the 
Viceroy,  would  also  be  put  in  charge  of  an  Indian  member.  The 
changes  would  be  within  the  framework  of  the  Act  of  1935  but 
there  would  be  a  substantial  devolution  of  authority  to  Indians. 
As  in  the  Dominions,  a  British  High  Commissioner  would  be 
appointed  to  look  after  Britain’s  commercial  and  other  interests 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  95.  Bhulabhai 
Desai  called  him  “Munshi  Kaka”. 

The  Partition 


in  this  country.  If  there  was  a  favourable  reception  to  the 
proposals,  democratic  administration  would  be  restored  in  the 
former  Congress  provinces.  A  conference  would  be  held  at 
Simla  on  June  25  to  achieve  these  results.  To  facilitate  a 
thorough  public  debate  on  the  offer,  Congress  leaders  were 
released  from  detention  on  June  15.  The  more  important  ones 
among  them  also  get  ready  to  take  part  in  the  Simla 
deliberations.  The  Simla  Conference  was  foredoomed  to  failure 
since  Jinnah  insisted  on  demanding  his  pound  of  flesh. 

At  the  end  of  the  war  in  Europe,  Britain  went  to  the  polls 
and  returned  Labour  to  power  in  July  1945  with  Clement  Attlee 
as  Prime  Minister.  L.  S.  Amery,  an  implacable  foe  of  Indian 
freedom  and  an  ace  fomentor  of  Indian  dissensions,  was 
replaced  by  Lord  Pethick  Lawrence  at  the  India  Office.  Attlee 
was  not  an  enthusiastic  supporter  of  Indian  independence  but  he 
was  a  great  realist  who  realised  that  a  battered  Britain’s  post¬ 
war  garrison  responsibilities  in  India  would  be  unbearable.  The 
new  Secretary  of  State  was  a  friend  of  India  and  an  admirer  of 
Mahatma  Gandhi.  After  consultations  with  the  new  Ministry,  the 
Viceroy  announced  on  September  19  that  steps  would  be  taken 
to  hasten  India’s  attainment  of  self-government.  A  Constituent 
Assembly  would  be  brought  into  existence  so  that  Indians  might 
frame  their  own  constitution.  General  elections  would  be  held  in 
the  country  during  the  cold  weather  to  facilitate  the  creation  of 
such  a  body. 

The  elections  of  1945-46  clinched  the  issue  of  India’s 
partition.  The  Muslim  League  conducted  the  electoral  campaign 
with  the  zest  of  a  jehad  or  religious  war.  Jinnah  said:  “If  the 
Muslim  verdict  is  against  Pakistan,  I  will  stand  down”.  Besides 
making  a  free  use  of  strong-arm  methods,  heady  slogans  like 
“Islam  in  danger”  and  “Pakistan  Zindabad”  were  shouted  as 
part  of  the  party’s  electoral  strategy.  Professor  Brecher  has 


K.  M.  Munshi 

called  attention  to  the  fanatical  fervour  that  marked  the  League’s 
methods  for  winning  Muslim  votes*. 

The  Muslim  League’s  electoral  victory  caused  deep 
concern  to  the  nationalists  all  over  the  country.  Sir  Tej  Bahadur 
Sapru  wrote  to  Munshi  on  January  16,  1946,  saying  that  Jinnah 
was  most  unlikely  to  join  the  Constituent  Assembly.  He 
observed:  “What  is  to  happen  then  is  the  real  question  which 
ought  to  engage  your  attention  and  that  of  the  other  leaders”. 
Earlier,  on  the  5th  of  the  same  month,  a  British  Parliamentary 
Delegation  came  to  India  to  study  the  political  situation.  Its 
leader,  Professor  Robert  Richards,  who  met  Nehru,  was 
impressed  with  his  statement  of  the  Congress  case  with 
moderation  and  without  rancour.  Jinnah  told  the  Delegation  that 
he  would  refuse  to  have  anything  to  do  with  any  interim 
government  that  did  not  give  his  party  parity  with  all  the  other 
parties,  an  bovious  improvement  on  his  demand  at  the  Simla 
Conference.  Similarly,  the  partition  of  India  and  the  setting  up  of 
two  constitution-making  bodies  must  be  conceded  if  the 
League's  co-operation  in  any  temporary  arrangement  was 

By  now  the  Labour  Governement  had  become  fully 
aware  of  the  gravity  of  the  Indian  situation.  It,  therefore, 
decided  to  cut  the  Gordian  knot.  A  Cabinet  Mission,  consisting 
of  Lord  Pethick-Lawrence,  Secretary  of  State,  Sir  Stafford 
Cripps,  President  of  the  Board  of  Trade,  and  A.V.  Alexander, 
first  Lord  of  the  Admiralty,  arrived  in  India  on  March  24,  1946, 
and  after  extensive  consultations,  published  their  scheme  on 
May  16  for  settling  the  Indian  problem.  It  was  essentially  a 
compromise  proposal  designed  to  please  both  the  nationalists 

*  Nehru's  A  Politial  Biography  by  Michael  Brecher,  Oxford,  1959, 
p.  304. 

The  Partition 


and  the  separatists.  The  May  offer  envisaged  an  Indian  Union, 
endowed  with  all  the  three  organs  of  governement.  Its 
constituents  would  consist  of  the  eleven  British  Indian  provinces 
and  the  numerous  Princely  States.  The  jurisdiction  of  the 
principal  government  would  be  limited  to  defence,  foreign  affairs 
and  communications.  The  provinces  were  proposed  to  be 
divided  into  A,  B  and  C  sections.  The  first  section  was  to 
consist  of  Hindu-majority  provinces  while  the  second  would 
include  the  Punjab,  Sind  and  the  North-West  Frontier  Province. 
The  last  section  would  conprise  Bengal  and  Assam. 

The  scheme  was  rejected  by  both  the  Congress  and  the 
Muslim  League,  though  for  different  reasons.  Munshi's  reactions 
to  it  were  confided  in  his  diary  thus:  "If  it  is  implemented  India 
will  be  cut  up  into  four:  one  Hindu,  two  Muslim  and  one 
Princely.  The  Centre  is  bound  to  be  weak.  The  Hindus  of 
Bengal  and  Assam  will  be  crushed;  the  malignant  spirit  of  zonal 
divison  of  India,  invoked  by  Professor  Coupland,  will  stalk  the 
land.”  After  strenuous  efforts,  Wavell  succeeded  in  bringing  the 
two  principal  parties  into  his  Executive  Council.  While  the 
Congress  under  Nehru’s  leadership  joined  it  on  September  2, 
1946,  the  League  did  likewise  on  October  15,  but  not  before 
plunging  large  parts  of  the  country  into  fratricidal  conflict  by  its 
“direct  action”.  The  great  Calcutta  killing  on  August  16  has  gone 
down  in  history  as  one  of  the  most  gruesome  episodes  in  the 
pre-partition  period.  The  London  Conference  in  December, 
attended  by  Wavell  and  the  representatives  of  the  two  Indian 
parties,  proved  utterly  futile,  forcing  the  Labour  government  to 
use  its  own  initiative  in  grasping  the  Indian  nettle.  Attlee  and 
Cripps  felt  that  a  change  of  Viceroyalty  had  become  imperative 
and  replaced  Wavell  by  Mountbatten. 

Admiral  Mountbatten,  who  took  charge  of  the  Indian 
government  on  March  24, 1947,  was  a  dynamic  sailor-statesman 
who  was  then  in  the  full  tide  of  his  manhood.  He  had  asked  for 


K.  M.  Munshi 

and  was  given  plenipotentiary  powers  to  deal  with  the  Indian 
situation.  Such  a  free  hand  had  been  demanded  before  by 
Curzon  and  Minto  but  it  was  firmly  rejected  on  the  ground  that 
it  was  against  the  letter  and  the  spirit  of  the  law  and  the 
constitution.  But  then  Mountbatten’s  Viceroyalty  was  an 
extraordinary  one,  his  task  being  to  perform  the  historic  task  of 
winding  up  nearly  the  two-hundred  year  old  British  Raj  in  India. 
The  situation  in  the  country  decided  him  to  take  decisive  and 
urgent  action  as  the  only  means  of  saving  the  sub-continent  from 
plunging  into  a  terrible  anarchy. 

He  had  prepared  a  partition  plan  with  the  assistance  of 
Lord  Ismay,  a  highly  competent  and  influential  person  who  had 
accompanied  him  to  India  to  assist  in  the  momentous  withdrawal 
exercise.  V.  R  Menon,  Constitutional  Adviser  to  the  Government 
of  India,  who  saw  it,  strongly  reacted  against  it  since  its 
implementation  would  have  broken  up  India  like  the  Moghul 
Empire.  He  produced  an  alternative  scheme  based  on  the 
country’s  division  and  secured  Sardar  Patel’s  powerful  support 
to  it.  When  Munshi  expressed  to  the  Sardar  his  surprise  at  his 
consent  to  India’s  partition,  the  latter  said  that  it  had  become 
inevitable.  Munshi,  who  knew  Menon  well,  paid  a  warm  tribute 
to  his  services  to  the  country.  He  wrote:  “He  (Menon)  rendered 
unique  service  to  the  country,  not  only  by  integrating  India  under 
Sardar ’s  leadership,  but  earlier  by  saving  the  country  from  the 
catastrophe  which  would  have,  certainly  overtaken  India  had  he 
not  intervened  to  blow  up  the  Iismay  Plan”. 

Mountbatten’s  revised  scheme,  based  on  Menon’s 
suggestions  and  endorsed  by  the  Attlee  Government,  was 
published  on  June  3.  It  provided  for  India’s  partition,  but  the 
territories  of  the  seceding  State  would  be  strictly  limited  to  the 
Muslim  majority  areas.  The  non-Muslim  legislators  of  Punjab 
and  Bengal,  sitting  separately,  decided  that  the  districts 
commanding  the  majority  of  their  co-religionists  should  be 

The  Partition 


joined  to  India.  On  the  same  principle,  Sylhet  was  detached 
from  Assam  and  given  to  East  Pakistan.  A  Boundary  Commission 
under  the  Chairmanship  of  Sir  Cyril  Radcliffe,  was  appointed  to 
demarcate  the  Indo-Pakistan  borders.  Since  the  Hindu  and 
Muslim  members  of  the  mission  could  not  agree,  Sir  Cyril’s 
findings  became  an  Award.  Many  surprises  were  in  store  for  the 
Hindus  and  Sikhs  of  the  Punjab  when  the  Award  was  published 
on  August  17.  The  loss  of  Lahore  was  a  great  blow  to  them. 

The  massacres  and  migrations  that  preceded  and  followed 
India’s  partition  were  on  an  unparalleled  scale.  The  partition 
riots  are  claimed  to  have  taken  the  toll  of  some  two  lakh  lives 
while  ten  million  people  were  uprooted  from  their  ancestral 
homes  to  take  shelter  in  far  away  places,  most  of  them  with  no 
means  of  livelihood.  Such  tremendous  suffering  and  sacrifice 
was  imposed  on  the  Indians  because,  till  the  last  days  of  their 
withdrawal,  the  British  never  considered  the  transfer  of  power 
as  a  simple  and  inevitable  act  of  justice.  They  had  laid  this 
country  under  a  deep  debt  of  gratitude  by  rescuing  it  from 
chaos,  by  giving  it  a  strong  and  stable  government  based  on  the 
rule  of  law,  and  by  bringing  to  the  doorstep  of  its  people 
Western  science  and  enlightenment,  including  Western  democratic 
institutions.  Had  they  withdrawn  from  India  in  good  time  by 
honouring  their  own  commitments,  they  would  have  won  an 
abiding  place  in  world  history  as  great  liberators.  They  did  not 
leave  when  the  going  was  good  because  they  looked  upon  her 
as  their  milch  cow.  Munshi  commented  on  the  economic 
consequences  of  British  rule,  thus:  “Today,  after  a  century  and 
a  half  of  British  rule,  we  are  poor,  underfed,  illiterate,  backward 
in  all  respects  where  Government  help  was  necessary,  thwarted 
in  all  matters  where  no  such  help  was  needed.  This  is  neither 
mere  logic  nor  rhetoric;  it  is  the  testimony  of  facts  mostly  found 


K.  M.  Munshi 

by  Britishers.”  He  concluded  that  Britain’s  rule  was  a  cold¬ 
blooded  rule”*. 

August  15,  1947,  was  a  great  day  for  India. 
It  marked  the  end  of  an  era  and  the  beginning  of  a  new  one.  In 
the  country’s  capital,  the  advent  of  independence  was  celebrated 
at  midnight  on  August  75  with  great  solemnity.  The  hall  of  the 
Constituent  Assembly  was  brilliantly  lit  and  decorated.  Munshi, 
a  member  of  the  constitution-making  body,  sat  in  the  second 
row  along  with  the  well-known  Maharashtra  leader,  Shankarrao 
Deo,  just  behind  Sardar  Patel.  Like  his  colleagues,  Munshi  took 
the  solemn  oath  to  dedicate  himself  “in  all  humility  to  the  service 
of  India  and  her  people  to  the  end  that  this 
ancient  land  attain  her  rightful  place  in  the  world  and  make  her 
full  and  willing  contribution  to  the  promotion  of  world  peace  and 
the  welfare  of  mankind”.  It  was  on  this  occasion  that  Nehru, 
free  India’s  first  Prime  Minister,  made  a  memorable  speech.  He 
said:  “Long  years  ago  we  made  a  tryst  with  Destiny,  and  now 

the  time  comes  when  we  shall  redeem  our  pledge . At  the 

stroke  of  the  midnight  hour,  when  the  world  sleeps,  India  will 
awake  to  life  and  freedom.  A  moment  comes,  which  comes  but 
rarely  in  history,  when  we  step  out  from  the  old  to  the  new, 
when  an  age  ends,  and  when  the  soul  of  a  nation,  long 
suppressed,  finds  utterance”. 

Munshi,  who  had  dreamed  of  freedom  from  his  boyhood 
and  continuously  wrote  stirring  patriotic  literature,  was  aglow 
with  excitement  on  that  great  day.  He  confided  his  feelings  to  his 
diary.  He  wrote  :  “Independence  came  sooner  than  I  had 
dreamt  of;  more  like  the  end  of  an  inartistically  woven  plot 
abruptly,  almost  inconsequentially”.  He  wrote  these  melancholy 
words  because  freedom  came  by  shattering  his  dream  of 

*  The  Ruin  that  Britain  Wrought  by  K.  M.  Munhi,  Bharatiya  Vidya 
Bhavan,  1946,  pp.  2,  8. 

The  Partition 


Akhand  Hindustan.  Nevertheless,  what  happened  on  August  15 
was  “a  great  thing  in  the  history  of  mankind.”  It  also  marked  the 
end  of  the  Gandhian  age  and  the  beginning  of  the  Nehru  era. 
Munshi’s  attachment  to  Sardar  Patel  was  second  only  to  his 
devotion  to  the  Mahatma.  He  wrote:  “Independence  has  also 
given  a  tremendous  opportunity  to  Sardar.  He  is  made  of  the 
stern  stuff  of  which  Bismarck  was  made.  His  alert  mind,  his 
uncanny  insight  into  human  weaknesses  and  his  great  gift  for 
organisation  have  found  scope  and  fulfilment  in  the  Free  India 
unlimited  of  today”*.  Munshi  also  found  in  free  India  unlimited 
opportunities  for  exercising  his  own  considerable  talents  in  the 
service  of  his  motherland. 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  pp.  136,  141. 


Princely  India 

WITH  THE  PARTITION  OF  INDIA,  involving  the  loss 
of  364,737  square  miles  of  territory,  the  country’s 
tribulations  did  not  end.  The  existence  of  over  five  hundred 
princi-  palities  of  varying  sizes  and  in  differing  stages  of 
development  and  the  pretensions  and  ambitions  of  their  rulers 
posed  a  further  threat  to  the  country’s  integrity.  Professor 
Coupland  correctly  described  the  position  thus  :  “India  could 
live  if  its  Moslem  limbs  in  the  north-west  and  north-east  were 
amputated,  but  could  it  live  without  its  midriff?”*.  Sir  Archibald 
Nye,  former  Governor  of  Madras  and  Britain’s  first  High 
Commissioner  in  free  India,  expressed  similar  concern  about  the 
gravity  of  the  states’  problem.  He  doubted  the  feasibility  of  any 
friendly  settlement  with  the  Princes  and  “visualised  trouble  of 
incalculable  dimensions  after  the  I5th  August”.  Britain’s  earlier 
commitments  to  the  rulers  to  meet  the  exigencies  of  the  Indian 
political  situation  and  their  reiteration  at  the  time  of  her 
withdrawal  encouraged  the  Princely  Order  into  believing  that 
the  accession  of  the  States  to  free  India  depended  entirely  upon 
the  volition  of  individual  rulers.  Had  this  view  prevailed,  the 
Balkanisation  of  an  already  truncated  country  would  have  been 
accomplished  with  all  its  terrible  consequences.  There  would 
indeed  have  been  no  India  at  all. 

*  India:  A  Restatement  by  Sir  Reginald  Coupland,  Oxford,  1945,  p. 

Princely  India 


Munshi  was  aware  of  the  seriousness  of  the  states’ 
problem.  He  had  his  education  in  Baroda,  one  of  the 
best-governed  principalities.  He  evinced  wholesome  respect  for 
Maharaja  Sayajirao  Gaekwad  who  was  not  only  forward- 
looking  but  was  endowed  with  great  political  sagacity.  The 
Maharaja  was  convinced  that  in  a  well-regulated  polity  there 
was  no  place  for  a  Princely  Order  whose  survival  depended 
entirely  upon  the  continued  domination  of  his  motherland  by  a 
foreign  power.  He  confided  to  the  Aga  Khan  thus:  “The  first 
thing  you’ll  have  to  do  when  the  British  are  gone,  is  to  get  rid 
of  all  these  rubbish  states.  I  tell  you,  there'll  never  be  an  Indian 
nation  until  the  so-called  Princely  Order  disappears.  Its 
disappearance  will  be  the  best  thing  that  can  happen  to  India, 
the  best  possible  thing”*.  Baroda  was  among  the  five  big 
principalities  with  an  administration  that  was  one  lap  ahead  of  its 
counterpart  in  British  India  in  some  respects.  And  yet  its  ruler 
was  prepared  to  impose  an  unparalleled  self-denying  ordinance 
upon  himself  and  dynasty.  A  keen  student  of  affairs,  Munshi  had 
also  the  opportunity  of  observing  how  the  rulers  of  the 
Kathiawad  States  comported  themselves.  Now  known  as 
Saurashtra,  Kathiawad  was  a  veritable  museum  of  principalities 
before  independence. 

Like  most  of  the  nationalists  in  British  India,  Munshi 
watched  the  happenings  in  the  princely  states  almost  till  the  end 
of  the  nineteen  thirties  with  no  intention  of  taking  direct  interest 
in  them.  Although  the  Motilal  Nehru  Committe,  1928,  vehemently 
refuted  the  charge  that  Congress  interest  in  “Indian  India”  was 
fitful,  there  is  no  doubt  that  no  sustained  efforts  were  made  to 
rescue  the  ninety-three  million  people  there  from  capricious  mle. 
In  fact,  some  British  Indian  politicians  felt  that,  however  bad  the 

*  The  Memoirs  of  Aga  Khan,  pp.  301-302. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

administration  in  the  states,  they  should  not  be  viewed  severely 
because  they  symbolised  Swaraj  or  self-rule.  Perhaps,  it  is  for 
this  reason  that  only  faint  voices  were  raised  during  the  British 
period  for  the  abolition  of  the  states. 

The  states,  with  their  population  of  over  93  million, 
covered  an  area  of  715,964  square  miles  or  nearly  twice  the 
size  of  Pakistan  before  the  secession  of  its  eastern  wing  in  1971 
and  the  birth  of  Bangladesh.  Great  skill  and  statesmanship  were 
needed  to  pull  them  out  of  medieval  conditions  and  to  expose 
them  to  the  wind  of  change.  It  was  impossible  to  give  even  a 
single  rational  explanation  for  their  continued  existence  under 
British  paramountcy.  India  is  certainly  a  country  of  continental 
size,  but  to  have  allowed  as  many  as  five  hundred  odd 
principalities  of  bewildering  diversity  to  survive  the  tide  of 
British  conquest  was  the  gravest  reproach  to  all  canons  of 
territorial  demarcation. 

The  great  rebellion  of  1 857  marked  the  turning-point  in 
the  relations  between  the  British  Raj  and  its  feudatories.  Many 
leading  princes  rushed  to  the  aid  of  the  foreign  Government  in 
the  hour  of  its  direct  need,  their  steadfast  loyalty  serving  as  an 
eye-opener  to  it.  The  crucial  role  played  by  the  princes  during 
that  period  is  exemplified  by  the  observation:  “If  the  Nizam 
goes,  all  goes”.  Of  course,  the  Nizam  did  not  go  and,  as  a 
writer,  Sir  Sidney  Low,  gratefully  acknowledged,  the  British  Raj 
was  saved.  Out  of  the  discovery  of  the  value  of  the 
Princely  Order  was  born  the  dictum:  “Once  a  State  always  a 
State”.  The  policy  of  annexation  was  abandoned  for  good. 
Thenceforward  princes  guilty  of  gross  misrule  were  punished 
individually  while  their  states  were  spared. 

The  emerging  relations  between  the  princes  and  their 
foreign  protectors  were  well  described  by  Professor  Westlake. 

Princely  India 


He  wrote:  “There  is  good  reason  to  believe  that  both 
by  them  and  us  a  comradeship  in  difficulty  and  danger  is  indeed 
felt,  such  a  comradeship  as  engages  the  strenuous 
and  loyal  exertions  of  a  ship’s  crew  under  the  categorical 
imperative  of  the  Captain”*.  The  strange  partnership  between 
the  two  was  solely  governed  by  the  consideration  of  survival. 
The  mounting  pressure'  of  nationalism,  especially  after  the  first 
world  war,  forced  them  into  such  a  preposterous  relationship. 
Though  pampered,  the  princes  were  not  allowed  to  forget  their 
subordinate  status. 

Responding  to  their  plea  in  May  1927  for  an  expert 
investigation  into  the  relationship  between  their  states  and  the 
paramount  power,  the  Government  appointed  a  Committee 
under  the  Chairmanship  of  Sir  Harcourt  Butler  to  report  on  the 
issue.  They  engaged  Sir  Leslie  Scott  and  many  other  British  legal 
luminaries  at  a  staggering  cost  to  advocate  their  case.  The 
princes’  counsel  argued  with  complete  indifference  to  historical 
facts  that  their  principalities  had  enjoyed  sovereignty  before  they 
accepted  British  paramountcy.  They  also  maintained  with  equal 
contempt  for  realities  that  their  relations  were  with  the  Crown  of 
England  and  not  with  the  Government  of  India  for  the  time  being. 
The  Butler  Committee  categorically  rejected  the  suggestion  that 
the  British  Government’s  relations  with  the  states  were  based  on 
the  doctrine  of  limited  liability  and  declared  with  absolute  finality 
that  “paramountcy  must  always  remain  paramount”.  It,  however, 
recorded  its  “strong  opinion”  that  “in  view  of  the  historical  nature 
of  the  relationship  between  the  Paramount  Power  and  the 
Princes,  the  latter  should  not  be  transferred  without  their 
agreement  to  a  relationship  with  a  new  government  in  British  India 
responsible  to  an  Indian  legislature”.  The  Government  readily 

*  Collected  Papers  on  International  Law  by  Westlake,  edited  by 
professor  Oppenheim,  p.  632. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

accepted  these  recommendations  and  thus  created  a  grave 
problem  for  the  mlers  of  free  India  in  dealing  with  the  question  of 
princely  states. 

Although  the  princes  signally  failed  to  secure  any  modification 
of  their  subordination  to  British  suzerainty,  they  were  delighted  at 
the  assurance  that  they  and  their  dynasties  could  depend  for  their 
security  and  permanence  on  the  support  of  the  powerful  British 
Raj.  This  had  a  disastrous  effect  on  the  quality  of  the  states’ 
administration,  in  many  of  which  it  became  a  nightmare.  Some  of 
the  princes,  aided  by  their  advisers,  asserted  that  they  were  not 
free  to  allow  their  subjects  a  share  in  the  government  of  their 
states  without  the  express  consent  of  the  paramount  power. 
Authoritative  clarifications  from  Whitehall  that  no  such  permission 
was  necessary  for  the  introduction  of  enlightened  administration 
fell  on  deaf  ears. 

To  the  surprise  of  most  people,  in  1938-39,  Mahatma 
Gandhi  and  Sardar  Patel  intervened  in  the  petty  state  of  Rajkot 
in  Saurashtra  in  defence  of  the  civic  rights  of  its  people.  The 
young  Thakore  Saheb  was  a  virtual  puppet  in  the  tyrannical 
hands  of  Darbar  Virawala,  the  Dewan.  Munshi,  who  closely 
watched  the  developments  in  the  state,  wrote  that  “the  British 
Indian  authorities  mobilized  the  zamindars  and  the  leading 
Muslims  of  Rajkot  to  stage  a  demonstration  against  Gandhiji.” 
To  quell  the  opposition  of  the  Thakore  Saheb  to  reforms, 
Gandhi  went  on  a  fast  on  February  4,  1939,  which  led  to 
Viceregal  intervention.  The  Chief  Justice  of  the  Federal  Court  of 
India,  Sir  Maurice  Gwyer,  whose  legal  opinion  was  sought, 
gave  his  verdict  in  favour  of  Gandhi  and  the  Sardar.  With  his 
characteristic  unpredictability,  the  Mahatma  renounced  the  gains 
of  the  judicial  decision  on  the  ground  that  his  fast  was 
“tainted  with  himsa  ” 

Princely  India 


All  this  time,  the  Viceroy,  Lord  Linlithgow,  was  intensifying 
his  efforts  to  draw  the  states  into  the  federal  scheme.  He  had 
set  his  heart  on  this  project  because,  as  a  fervent  believer  in  the 
British  mission  in  India,  he  was  convinced  that,  with  a  federal 
structure  consisting  of  a  congeries  of  mutually-incompatible 
elements,  Whitehall’s  hegemony  in  the  country  would  last  as 
long  as  one  could  foresee.  The  admission  of  the  states  into  the 
federation,  with  their  sizable  representation  in  the  bicameral 
legislature  at  the  Centre,  was  imperative  in  his  scheme  of  things. 
The  princes’  repugnance  for  an  all-India  polity  and  the  outbreak 
of  the  Second  World  War  in  September  forced  him  to  abandon 
his  favourite  project. 

For  some  years  before  these  happenings,  things  had 
begun  to  move  even  in  the  unchanging  states.  In  a  number  of 
them,  the  Praja  Mandals  had  become  better  organised  and 
more  and  more  assertive.  Munshi  found  that  his  professsional 
advice  was  increasingly  in  request  by  the  States’  and  their 
rulers.  As  we  saw  in  an  earlier  chapter,  he  went  to  Ratlam,  a 
medium-sized  State  in  Central  India,  now  Madhya  Bharat,  to 
defend  seven  or  eight  persons,  including  a  doctor  and  a  lawyer, 
who  had  been  tried  and  sentenced  to  long  terms  of  imprisonment. 
Among  other  things,  they  were  accused  of  “attempting  to 
overthrow  the  lawfully  established  Government  of  His  Highness 
Maharaja  Sajjan  Singh  of  Ratlam.  The  Praja  Mandal  in  the 
State  was  practically  dead  and  no  local  lawyer  ventured  to 
defend  the  accused.  In  the  middle  of  December  1941, 
Mahatma  Gandhi  asked  Munshi  to  go  to  the  State  and  appear 
for  the  accused  in  the  criminal  appeal.  The  Mahatma  wrote  to 
him  thus:  “By  advocacy  you  can  only  achieve  what  is  possible, 
but  by  your  going  there,  the  poor  prisoners  will  find  some 
comfort.  Meet  the  officers  there  and  spread  the  cult  of  mercy 
even  by  going  out  of  your  (professional)  field”.  What  transpired 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Munshi  and  the  powerful  Defence  Minister  of  the  state 
Shivjibhai,  and  how  by  eating  a  single  kachauri  as  the  letter's 
guest,  the  Bombay  lawyer  could  win  the  case  has  been  narrated 
in  chapter  Three. 

Despite  the  failure  of  the  Cripps  Mission,  it  became 
evident  even  to  the  most  conservative  and  uninstructed  princes 
that  Britain’s  withdrawal  from  India  sooner  than  later  was 
inevitable.  A  number  of  rulers  began  to  give  serious  thought  to 
their  future.  Many  favoured  union  of  States,  wherever  such  an 
arrangement  was  possible.  Munshi,  who  went  to  Udaipur,  an 
ancient  and  historically  important  principality  in  Rajasthan,  to 
preside  over  the  Hindi  Sahitya  Sammelan,  had  the  opportunity 
of  meeting  the  Maharana  and  several  Rajasthan  rulers.  He  told 
Maharana  Bhupal  Singh,  with  whom  he  had  friendly  relations, 
that  it  would  be  in  the  fitness  of  things  if  a  Hindi  university  could 
be  established  at  Chitod,  the  scene  of  memorable  battles.  The 
ruler  was  a  traditionalist  par  excellence.  The  Brahmins  paid  no 
land  revenue  in  his  State.  In  November  1945,  he  invited  Munshi 
to  be  a  member  of  the  Final  Court  of  Appeal.  Munshi ’s 
association  with  the  State  continued  till  the  formation  of  the 
United  State  of  Rajasthan  and  its  inauguration  in 
March  1948. 

As  the  realm  of  Maharana  Pratap,  Udaipur  or  Me  wad 
stirred  the  historically  minded  Munshi  to  his  very  depths.  He 
was  prepared  to  go  to  any  reasonable  length  to  help  the 
Maharana  in  safeguarding  the  interests  of  his  ancient  House.  He 
told  the  Maharana,  who  loved  his  people  dearly,  that  great 
things  were  going  to  happen  soon,  both  in  British  India  and  in 
the  Princely  States.  On  April  23,  1947,  he  advised  the  ruler  to 
send  a  representative  from  his  state  to  the  Indian  Constituent 
Assembly  which  had  been  brought  into  existence  on  December 
9,  1946.  Munshi  wrote:  “From  now  to  June,  there  is  going  to 

Princely  India 


be  a  tremendous  upheaval  in  the  country.  Men  as  well  as  capital 
are  trying  to  find  out  some  well-protected  Indian  states  where 
they  can  find  an  asylum  during  the  coming  turbulent  times”.  He 
gave  similar  advice  to  other  Rajasthani  rulers  to  participate  in 
the  constitution-making  deliberations  in  New  Delhi  and  to  weld 
their  various  states  into  a  single,  strong  and  viable  administrative 
unit.  He  kept  Nehru  and  Sardar  Patel  fully  informed  about  what 
he  was  doing  in  the  states.  His  effort  to  modernise  Mewad’s 
government,  however,  yielded  poor  results.  He  wrote 
ruefully  :  “I  tried  to  perform,  with  obsessional  vigour,  the  task 
of  vitalizing  the  important  departments  of  the  state  which  were 
just  functioning  because,  having  lived  so  long,  they  did  not  know 
how  to  die”.  Many  rulers  in  other  parts  of  the  country  consulted 
Munshi  on  two  issues  vital  to  them,  namely,  protection  for  their 
personal  properties  and  their  place  in  India’s  future  set  up.  His 
invariable  advice  to  them  was  that  they  should  promptly  send 
their  representatives  to  Constituent  Assembly. 

The  advent  of  labour  to  power  in  England  at  the  end  of 
the  war  in  Europe  further  strengthened  the  Indian  belief  that 
British  withdrawal  from  this  country  was  certain.  The  most 
decisive  proof  of  th  s  was  given  by  the  visit  of  three  senior 
British  Cabinet  Ministers  to  this  country  in  1946  to  discuss  the 
modalities  for  the  transfer  of  power.  On  May  12,  the  Cabinet 
Mission  presented  to  the  Chancellor  of  the  Chamber  of  Princes 
a  Memorandum  about  the  states.  The  document  pointed  out  to 
the  princes  that  when  the  contemplated  transfer  of  power  to 
Indians  took  place,  \ Whitehall  would  have  no  influence  over  the 
successor  GovernnK  nt  or  Governments  and  that  it  would  be 
impossible  for  it  to  station  British  troops  on  Indian  soil  in  order 
to  protect  them.  In  such  circumstances,  the  British  Government 
would  cease  to  exercise  the  powers  of  paramountcy  over  them. 
“This  means”,  the  Memorandum  explained,  “that  the  rights  of 
the  states  which  flow  from  their  relationship  to  the  Crown  will 


K.  M.  Munshi 

no  longer  exist  and  that  all  the  rights  surrendered  by  states  to 
the  Paramount  Power  will  return  to  the  states”.  The  British 
Government,  which  had  all  the  time  firmly  rejected  the  Princes’ 
doctrine  of  pre-existing  sovereignty,  now  conceded  it  implicitly, 
thus  gravely  endangering  India’s  territorial  integrity.  It  was  as 
though  one  division  of  the  country  to  accommodate  Pakistan 
was  not  enough. 

In  another  statement,  both  the  Cabinet  Delegation  and  the 
Viceroy  reiterated  the  thesis  that  “paramountcy  can  neither  be 
retained  by  the  British  Crown  nor  transferred  to  the  new 
Government”.  In  pursuance  of  this  policy,  the  Indian 
Independence  Act,  1947,  provided  for  the  abrogation  of  the 
British  Crown’s  suzerainty  over  the  princes.  The  princes  were 
delighted  at  the  turn  of  the  events  in  their  favour.  On  January  29, 
1947,  the  Chamber  of  Princes  declared  that  the  entry  of  the 
states  into  the  Indian  Union  would  be  through  negotiation  and 
that  “final  decision  shall  rest  with  each  state”.  The  Nawab  of 
Bhopal,  who  held  the  key  position  of  Chancellor  of  the 
Chamber  of  Princes,  told  Lord  Mountbatten,  the  new  Viceroy, 
that  he  “abhorred”  the  Congress  and  that  he  would  have 
“nothing  to  do  with  a  Congress-  Dominated  India”*.  The 
certainty  of  India’s  partition  gave  a  tremendous  fillip  to  his 
disruptive  activities.  He  tried  to  rope  in  the  Maharajas  of 
Jodhpur,  Indore  and  Udaipur  to  secure  geographical  contiguity 
for  his  State  so  that  he  could  commit  its  destiny  to  the  care  of 
Pakistan.  The  Maharana  rejected  the  unpatriotic  scheme  with 
disdain.  In  words  worthy  of  the  scion  of  Ranas  Sanga  and 
Pratap,  he  said:  “My  choice  was  made  by  my  ancestors.  If  they 

*  The  Last  Days  of  the  British  Raj  by  Leonard  Mosley,  Weidenfeld 
and  Nicolson,  1961,  p.  177. 

Princely  India 


had  faltered,  they  would  have  left  us  a  kingdom  as  large  as 
Hyderabad.  They  did  not;  neither  shall  1. 1  am  with  India”#. 

The  services  of  constitutional  experts  were  sought  by  the 
princes  to  prepare  schemes  for  the  Union  of  States.  While 
Dr.  M.  R.  Jayakar  advised  the  Princes  of  the  Deccan  States  on 
how  best  they  could  come  together,  the  task  of  preparing  a 
detailed  constitution  for  this  purpose  fell  on  Munshi.  There  were 
eighteen  principalities  in  the  Deccan,  the  biggest  of  them  being 
Kolhapur  with  an  area  of  3,219  square  miles,  a  population  of 
1,092,046  and  a  revenue  of  Rs.  52,03,000.  The  smallest  State, 
ruled  by  a  Nawab,  was  Savnur,  which  was  barely  70  square 
miles  in  size.  Even  smaller  than  it  was  Wadi,  an  estate.  A 
combination  of  the  eighteen  states  would,  however,  have 
transformed  them  into  a  sizeable  administrative  unit  with  the 
necessary  resources  to  cater  to  the  social  and  economic 
progress  of  their  people.  Their  combined  strength  in  area, 
population  and  revenue  would  have  been  10,870  square  miles, 
2,785,428  people  and  Rs.  1,42,23,000* **.  Many  of  the  rulers 
of  these  states  had  liberal  education  and  were  forward-looking. 
On  July  28,  1946,  some  of  them  met  Mahatma  Gandhi  for  his 
blessings  to  their  project.  He  advised  them  to  meet  Nehru  who 
welcomed  their  idea.  He,  however,  asked  them  to  Introduce 
political  reforms  in  their  respective  states.  They  did  not  relish 
the  suggestion  since  they  felt  that  they  would  be  at  the  mercy  of 
the  Praja  Mandals  once  power  was  transferred.  They  formed 
themselves  into  the  Deccan  States’  Union  Organisation  and 
invited  Munshi  to  be  their  Constitutional  Adviser. 

After  holding  discussions  with  some  of  the  knowledgeable 
rulers  and  their  advisers,  Munshi  prepared  a  Covenant  for  the 

#  Pilgrimate  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  163. 

**The  Future  of  Indian  States  by  V.  B.  Kulkarni,  Thacker,  1944,  pp. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

proposed  Union  of  the  Deccan  States.  The  United  State  was  to 
be  called  Samyukta  Dakshina  Rajya  or  the  United  Deccan 
States.  The  Preamble  to  the  Covenant  ran  thus  :  “The  Rulers  of 
the  ratifying  States  stressed  the  need  to  form  a  single  State  with 
a  unitary  Government,  which  would  take  its  place  as  a  unit  in 
the  Union  of  India.  The  Rulers’  rights,  privileges  and  authorities 
were  to  be  suitably  adjusted  so  as  to  lead  to  the  formation  of 
a  united  executive  authority,  common  legislature,  common 
judiciary  and  common  customs  and  boundaries  which  would 
secure  constitutional  freedom  to  the  people  of  the  State  to  be 
so  formed*. 

Events  were,  however,  moving  fast.  On  July  5,  1947, 
Sardar  Patel  took  charge  of  the  States  Department  of  the 
Government  of  India  and  set  in  motion  changes  in  the  Princely 
States,  the  revolutionary  significance  of  which  was  unparalleled 
in  India’s  history.  All  the  Deccan  States,  except  Kolhapur, 
merged  their  separate  identity  into  the  adjoinnig  districts  of  the 
Bombay  Province  by  agreements  signed  on  February  19,  1948. 
In  doing  so,  they  followed  the  example  of  the  Orissa  and 
Chhatisgarh  States,  which  had  agreed  in  December  1947  to  be 
absorbed  into  the  adjoining  districts.  On  February  1,  1949, 
Kolhapur,  which  had  kept  aloof  from  the  rest  of  the  Deccan 
States,  was  taken  by  the  Bombay  Government.  A  noteworthy 
feature  of  the  Covenant  for  the  Union  of  the  Deccan  States  is 
that  such  a  far-reaching  project  was  conceived  well  before 
Sardar  Patel  and  his  able  and  resourceful  Secretary,  V.  P. 
Menon,  had  formulated  their  policy  of  integration. 

The  Sardar’s  friendliness,  his  sincerity  and  his  determination 
to  be  fair  and  considerate  to  them,  appealed  to  most  of  the 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  pp.  154-56, 

Princely  India 


princes.  They  felt  confident  that  their  interests  would  be  safe  in 
his  hands.  In  V.  P.  Menon,  he  had  a  lieutenant  who  was 
admirably  equipped  to  assist  him  in  hastening  a  bloodless 
revolution  in  the  country.  Even  before  the  Sardar’s  famous 
appeal  was  made,  the  representatives  of  Baroda,  Cochin, 
Jaipur,  Jodhpur,  Bikaner,  Patiala  and  Rewa  had  taken  their 
seats  in  the  Constituent  Assembly.  They  bad  done  so  on  April 
28,  1947.  By  August  15  all  the  States,  except  Hyderabad, 
Junagadh  and  Kashmir,  had  signed  the  Instruments  of  Accession 
and  Standstill  Agreements,  the  latter  intended  to  maintain  the 
status  quo  till  permanent  arrangements  could  be  made  to 
regulate  the  relations  between  the  states  and  the  Indian 
Government.  Despite  his  rashness  and  extravagance,  the 
Maharaja  of  Baroda  was  the  first  mler  to  sign  the  Instmment  of 
Accession.  The  rulers  of  Bikaner  and  Patiala  played  a  great  part 
in  frustrating  the  evil  designs  of  the  saboteurs  of  Indian  unity. 

From  accession  to  integration  was  the  next  logical  step. 
A  large  number  of  petty  principalities,  whose  continued 
existence  was  a  reproach  to  all  canons  of  territorial  demarcation, 
were  mercifully  dissolved  into  the  adjoining  districts.  This  great 
mopping  up  operation,  covering  216  states  with  an  area  of 
108,739  square  miles,  was  initiated  in  the  feudatory  states  of 
Orissa  and  Chhatisgarh  and  was  extended  to  other  parts  of  the 
country.  As  the  dissolution  of  the  principalities  gathered 
momentum,  it  became  difficult  to  distinguish  between  big  and 
small  states.  Appreciating  the  need  for  the  integration  of  their 
states,  the  rulers  of  Rewa,  Indore,  Gwalior  and  Patiala  offered 
to  pass  a  self-denying  ordinance  upon  themselves.  The  Jam 
Saheb  of  Nawanagar  proved  a  tower  of  strength  to  the  Sardar. 

A  large  number  of  the  remaining  states  were  welded 
together  to  form  themselves  into  six  Unions.  The  leader  and  first 
model  for  such  amalgamated  principalities  was  the  United 


K.  M.  Munshi 

States  of  Saurashtra  which  absorbed  as  many  as  222  states  and 
estates  of  Kathiawad.  The  other  United  states  of  this  kind  were 
Vindhya  Pradesh,  Greater  Rajasthan,  Madhya  Bharat,  Patiala 
and  East  Punjab  states  and  Travancore-Cochin.  Mysore  was 
not  united  with  the  rest  of  India  until  a  countrywide  administrative 
reorganisation  took  place  in  later  years.  When  the  Rajasthan 
Union  was  created,  the  Maharaja  of  Jaipur  became  the 
Rajpramukh.  An  able  and  forward-looking  ruler,  he  fully 
deserved  this  honour,  but  Munshi’s  “sense  of  history  was 
outraged  by  the  descendant  of  Rana  Pratap,  the  Maharana  of 
Udaipur,  being  placed  below  the  descendant  of  Maharaja 
Bhagwandas  of  Jaipur”.  He  spoke  to  the  Sardar  about  this 
“historic  wrong”  and  pleaded  for  rectifying  it.  The  Sardar 
readily  responded  to  his  plea  and  designated  the  Maharana  as 
“Maharaj  Pramukh”* 

Junagadh,  like  Hyderabad,  refused  to  make  common 
cause  with  India.  Situated  in  Saurashtra,  82  per  cent  of  its 
population  was  Hindu.  “From  time  immemorial”,  writes  Munshi, 
“Lord  Somnath  was  the  guardian  deity  of  the  people;  Prabhasa, 
Gimar  and  Junagadh  were  associated  with  the  sacred  memory 
of  Sri  Krishna,  venerated  by  the  Hindus,  over  the  country. 
Junagadh  again,  was  the  home  of  Raja  Khengar  and  his  Queen 
Ranak  Devi  —  symbols  of  heroism  enshrined  in  song  and  story 
in  Western  India”.  Historical  accident  had  brought  this  State 
under  the  rule  of  a  Muslim  dynasty.  The  ruler  at  this  time,  Sir 
Mohabat  Khan  Rasulkhanji,  was  an  eccentric  of  rare  vintage. 
To  him  kennels  and  harem  were  more  important  than  anything 
else.  He  had  united  two.  dogs  in  unholy  wedlock  at  a  staggering 
expense  to  the  State  and  had  declared  a  public  holiday  on  that 
occasion.  There  was  no  geographical  contiguity  between  his 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  163. 

Princely  India 


State  and  Pakistan  except  by  sea  and  air  and  yet,  by 
responding  to  Jinnah’s  suggestion,  he  secretly  committed  the 
destiny  of  an  essentially  Indian  territory  to  the  fanatical  care  of 
Pakistan  before  August  15, 1947.  At  first,  he  was  inclined  to 
remain  with  India,  but  the  machinations  of  Jinnah  and  his  newly- 
appointed  Dewan,  Sir  Shah  Nawaj  Bhutto,  a  Muslim  Leaguer 
from  Karachi  and  the  parent  of  the  ill-fated  Zulfikar  Ali  Bhutto* 
caused  him  to  change  his  mind. 

Retribution  overtook  the  Nawab  swiftly.  The  Kathiawar 
Political  Conference  challenged  the  accession  of  the  State  to  the 
wrong  Dominion.  A  provisional  Government  was  set  up  to 
dislodge  the  unwanted  ruler.  The  draft  of  the  declaration  about 
its  formation  was  prepared  by  Munshi.  Large  numbers  of  young 
men  from  all  over  Saurashtra  came  together  to  assist  the  new 
Government  in  its  task  of  liberating  the  State.  The  approach  of 
the  volunteers  frightened  the  Nawab  who  precipitately  fled  to 
Karachi,  not  forgetting  to  carry  with  him  his  jewels,  and  a  surfeit 
of  dogs  and  wives.  The  issue  of  the  State’s  accession  was 
referred  to  its  people  who  voted  overwhelmingly  in  favour  of 
remaining  with  India — 190,779  for  and  91  against.  Bhutto,  who 
also  ran  away,  resigned  the  fate  of  the  State  to  the  care  of 
Harvey  Jones  who  promptly  delivered  its  administration  to  the 
Indian  Regional  Commissioner. 

It  was  Sardar  Patel’s  sagacious  leadership  and  the 
patriotism  of  a  large  number  of  princes  which  made  the  solution 
of  the  intractable  problem  of  the  States’  integration  with  India 
possible.  The  Russian  leader,  Khruschev,  was  astonished  that 
such  a  mighty  undertaking  was  accomplished  without  violence 
or  bloodshed.  During  his  visit  to  India  in  1956  he  said:  “You 

*  Z.  A.  Bhutto,  deposed  Prime  Minister  of  Pakistan,  was  hanged  on 
April  4,  1979,  under  the  orders  of  the  military  regime  there. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Indians  are  a  remarkable  people.  How  did  you  manage  to 
liquidate  the  princely  States  without  liquidating  the  princes?”. 
From  a  mere  accession  to  a  total  disappearance  of  the  States 
was  not  an  ordinary  happening  and  yet  most  of  the  dispossessed 
yet  rulers  accepted  the  new  dispensation  without  demur.  The 
Sardar  was  fully  conscious  of  the  tremendous  sacrifice  made  by 
the  Princely  Order  and  ensured  that  the  settlement  with  them 
was  fair  and  to  their  satisfaction. 

In  spite  of  his  generosity,  what  they  received  was  modest 
compared  to  what  they  were  accustomed  to  take.  From  Rs.  20 
crores  a  year,  their  Privy  Purse  was  drastically  pruned  down  to 
Rs.  5.8  crores.  Following  the  death  of  some  of  the  leading 
princes,  the  amount  dwindled  to  Rs.  3  crores.  This  small 
payment  was  permanently  stopped  by  means  of  a  constitutional 
amendment  in  August  1971.  During  the  debate  in  Parliament  on 
the  abolition  of  the  Privy  Purse,  the  Prime  Minister,  Mrs.  Indira 
Gandhi,  said  that  there  was  a  great  levelling  process  in  the 
country  aimed  at  abolishing  class  division  and  class  distinction. 
The  Maharaja  of  Baroda,  whose  State  was  the  first  to  sign  the 
Instrument  of  Accession,  defended  his  defunct  order  in  the  Lok 
Sabha  thus:  “Twenty-two  years  ago,  on  this  floor,  we  were 
referred  to  as  co-architects  of  Indian  Independence.  Today  we 
are  branded  as  an  anachronism  and,  later,  as  reactionaries 
obstructing  the  path  of  building  an  egalitarian  society”*.  How 
Sardar  Patel  grasped  the  Hyderabad  nettle  with  Munshi’ s 
assistance  narrated  in  the  next  chapter. 

* Princess  Remembers:  The  Memoirs  of  the  Maharani  of  Jaipur  by 
Gayatri  Devi  of  Jaipur  and  Santha  Rama  Rau,  published  by 
Lippincolt  Co.,  Philadelphia  and  New  York,  1976,  p.  323. 



SINCE  THE  INAUGURATION  OF  the  Constituent 
Assembly  on  December  9,  1946,  Munshi  became  one  of  its 
most  active  members.  His  sound  knowledge  of  constitutional 
law  and  his  industry  and  enthusiasm  for  the  work  were  an 
asset  to  the  constitution-making  body.  Towards  the  end  of 
December  1947,  Sardar  Patel,  then  India’s  Deputy  Prime 
Minister  and  Minister  in  charge  of  the  States  Ministry,  surprised 
him  while  they  were  taking  tea  together  by  saying  that  he, 
Munshi,  should  go  to  Hyderabad  as  India’s  representative.  The 
Sardar  said:  “We  have  to  send  an  agent  to  Hyderabad  under 
the  Standstill  Agreement”.  His  choice  was  well  made.  Apart 
from  the  fact  that  Munshi  had  a  first-hand  knowledge  of  the 
States’  problem  and  was  in  fact  playing  an  active  role  in 
persuading  more  and  more  princes  to  come  into  the  Indian 
Union’s  fold,  his  standing  in  Indian  public  life  influenced  the 
Sardar’s  selection.  Munshi  was,  however,  not  happy  at  the 
prospect  of  being  separated  from  the  Constituent  Assembly  at 
a  time  when  the  supreme  statute  of  the  land  was  being  put  into 
shape.  His  esteem  and  friendship  for  the  Sardar,  however,  made 
it  impossible  for  him  to  turn  down  the  offer. 

Munshi  called  on  Mahatma  Gandhi  to  take  counsel  with 
him.  The  Mahatma  heartily  agreed  with  the  suggestion.  He 
conceded  that  it  was  a  difficult  assignment  but  asked  Munshi  “if 
such  as  you  hesitate  to  undertake  the  work,  how  are  we  to 
make  any  progress?”  When  he  called  on  the  Prime  Minister,  he 


K.  M.  Munshi 

was  briefed  about  the  happenings  in  the  State.  “Hyderabad”, 
Nehru  said:  “is  sure  to  accede.  It  cannot  run  away  from  India”. 
Munshi  was  elated  by  Nehru's  optimism  and  his  confidence  in 
him.  He  thought  that  he  would  be  able  to  return  to  the  labours 
of  the  constitution-  making  body  by  the  end  of  April  with  the 
Nizam’s  Instrument  of  Accession  in  his  “pocket”.  His  meeting 
with  the  Governor-General,  Lord  Mountbatten,  was  equally 
rewarding.  Munshi  wrote:  “He  was  kind  enough  to  remark  that 
the  job  was  one  of  a  front-rank  politician  and  he  was  glad  I  had 
been  selected”.  Mountbatten  was  also  hopeful  that  Munshi ’s 
mission  in  Hyderabad  would  not  last  for  more  than  three  or  four 
months,  by  which  time  the  Nizam  would  realise  the  wisdom  of 
lining  up  with  India.  Munshi ’s  appointment  as  India’s  Agent- 
General  in  Hyderabad  was  announced  on  December  25,  1947. 

His  task  in  the  premier  Princely  State,  situated  in  the 
Deccan,  was  to  ensure  that  the  provisions  of  the  Standstill 
Agreement,  concluded  by  the  Nizam  with  the  Government  of 
India  on  November  29,  1947,  were  honestly  and  fully 
implemented.  According  to  any  standard  of  appraisal,  it  was 
a  strange  agreement  which  differed  fundamentally  from  the 
hundreds  of  Instruments  of  Accession  executed  by  the  rulers  of 
other  states.  At  a  time  when  revolutionary  changes  were  taking 
place  in  the  country,  as  in  the  rest  of  the  world,  it  was  too  much 
to  expect  that  anything  could  stand  still,  much  less  the  relations 
between  Hyderabad  and  New  Delhi.  According  to  the 
November  agreement,  the  arrangements  that  had  existed 
between  India  and  Hyderabad  before  August  15  in  the 
administration  of  their  common  affairs,  including  external 
relations,  defence  and  communications,  were  to  be  continued. 
The  Indian  Government  committed  itself  to  be  withdraw  its 
troops  from  the  Nizam’s  Dominions  and  not  to  claim  any 
paramountcy  rights  over  the  State.  It  also  agreed  to  send  an 
agent  to  Hyderabad  and  accept  one  from  the  Nizam  in 



New  Delhi  for  the  “better  execution  of  the  purposes”  of 
the  settlement.  Any  dispute  between  the  two  parties  over 
the  agreement,  tenable  for  one  year,  was  to  be  referred 
to  arbitration*. 

It  was  an  astonishing  document  which  presented  the  most 
distorted  picture  of  the  true  relationship  of  the  Nizam  with  the 
Government  of  India  since  the  establishment  of  Hyderabad  as 
a  succession  State  after  the  dissolution  of  the  Moghul  Empire  in 
the  first  quarter  of  the  eighteenth  century.  It  was  unhistorical  and 
contrary  to  all  canons  of  fairplay  towards  the  rest  of  the  Princely 
Order  to  treat  the  Nizam  as  distinct  and  apart  from  its 
members.  He  got  these  amazing  concessions  entirely  because 
the  negotiations  with  him  were  conducted  by  the  Governor- 
General,  Lord  Mountbatten,  and  not  by  the  redoubtable  Sarder 
Patel.  The  Nehru  government  felt  called  upon  to  resign  this 
responsibility  to  Mountbatten  because  of  its  vulnerable  position 
at  that  time.  India  had  suffered  a  grave  surgical  operation  and 
was  bleeding  profusely.  The  widespread  violence  in  northern 
India  that  accompanied  the  partition  had  made  the  law  and 
order  situation  most  tenuous.  Muslim  extremists  in  the  sub¬ 
continent  had  come  to  regard  the  Nizam  as  the  symbol  of 
Islamic  “sovereignty”  in  the  South.  Besides,  His  Exalted 
Highness  Mir  Usman  Ali  Khan  had  long  been  toying  with 
grandiose  ideas  about  his  status  and  had  announced  his  decision 
to  assume  “independent  sovereignty”  after  the  lapse  of  British 
paramountcy  over  his  State.  A  large  number  of  Muslims  in 
Hyderabad  had  organised  and  armed  themselves  to  support  the 
pretensions  of  their  Ala  Hazrat  at  all  costs. 

The  Sardar  shared  the  unhappiness  of  his  countrymen  over 
the  November  Standstill  Agreement  with  the  Nizam.  He  was, 

*  White  Paper  on  Hyderabad ,  Government  of  India,  1948,  p.  43. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

however,  certain  that  the  Nizam’s  downfall  was  inevitable.  By 
entrusting  the  negotiations  to  Mountbatten,  whose  motives  none 
could  impugn,  he  wanted  the  world  to  realise  how  self-willed 
the  ruler  of  Hyderabad  was.  He,  therefore,  defended  the 
Agreement  in  the  Constitutent  Assembly  on  November  29.  He 
said  that  India  would  have  been  happy  if  Hyderabad  had 
acceeded  to  her  in  the  same  manner  as  the  other  States  had 
done,  but  “consistent  with  our  policy  to  secure  agreement,  not 
by  coercion,  but  as  far  as  possible  with  the  maximum  degree  of 
goodwill  on  both  sides  and  with  due  regard  to  the  overall 
position,  we  felt  that  an  agreement  of  this  nature,  even  for  a 
limited  period,  would  have  considerable  advantages  over  the 
absence  of  any  agreement  whatsoever”.  He  hoped  that  the 
period  of  one  year  would  be  utilized  for  forging  closer  links 
between  the  two  parties,  thus  paving  the  way  for  Hyderabad’s 
final  accession  to  India*. 

Munshi  found  his  position  most  difficult.  The  Nizam  and  his 
fanatical  supporters  had  virtually  reduced  the  standstill  Agreement 
to  a  deadletter.  They  were  determined  to  use  the  time  allowed 
in  it  to  prepare  the  State  for  a  showdown  with  the  Indian 
government  the  sandar  futility  of  demanding  a  faithful  adhercane 
to  the  terms  of  the  agreement.  When  Munshi  met  him  sometime 
after  taking  charge  of  his  office  in  Hyderabad,  he  was  told  to 
concentrate  on  negotiating  a  permanent  settlement  by  March 
31,  1948.  How  he  should  set  about  to  achieve  this  end  was, 
however,  left  to  his  own  ingenuity  and  initiative.  He  rightly 
complained  :  “Never  in  the  rich  and  varied  annals  of  diplomatic 
history,  so  far  as  I  know,  was  a  diplomat  sent  on  such  a  vague 
and  nebulous  mission  as  I  was.  My  only  authority  was  the 
clause  in  the  Standstill  Agreement  which  ran:  “The  Government 

*  Ibid  p.  48. 



of  India  and  the  Nizam  agree  for  the  better  execution  of  the 
purposes  of  this  Agreement  to  appoint  agents  in  Hyderabad  and 
Delhi  respectively,  and  to  give  every  facility  to  them  for  the 
discharge  of  their  functions”.  Munshi’s  devotion  to  his  motherland, 
his  admiration  for  the  antiquity  and  splendour  of  the  Indian 
civilization,  his  abhorance  for  communal  politics  and  his  eminent 
qualities  as  lawyer,  scholar  and  politician  were  anathema  to 
Hyderabad’s  ruling  class.  It  looked  upon  him  as  the  potential 
destroyer  of  its  dreams  and  as  the  harbinger  of  the  State’s 
doom.  It,  therefore,  decided  to  frustrate  his  mission  by  leaving 
him  high  and  dry.  It  did  not  take  Munshi  long  to  realise  that  the 
aim  of  the  Nizam  and  his  adherents  was  to  make  Hyderabad  a 
“third  Dominion”. 

To  prove  the  absurdity  of  this  claim,  it  is  necessary  to  delve 
somewhat  deeply  into  the  history  of  Hyderabad  and  the  role 
played  by  its  rulers  from  the  time  of  its  foundation  till  the 
withdrawal  of  the  British  from  India.  After  the  death  of 
Aurangzeb,  the  Moghul  Emperor,  in  1707,  his  realm  came 
under  the  control  of  a  succession  of  weak  rulers  and  soon  fell 
to  pieces.  The  ambitious  Subedars  or  Governors  of  the  Empire, 
taking  advantage  of  the  unstable  conditions,  established  their 
independent  sway  in  Oudh,  Bengal  and  Hyderabad.  The 
founder  of  the  last-named  succession  State  was  Mir  Qamaruddin, 
grandson  of  Khwaja  Abid  who,  like  Babar,  the  founder  of  the 
Moghul  dynasty  in  India,  was  a  native  of  Central  Asia.  Abid  first 
came  to  India  in  1654-55  on  his  way  to  Mecca  and  returned 
to  this  country  in  the  following  year.  He  was  a  man  of  deep 
piety  and  scholarship  besides  being  a  brave  soldier.  His  qualities 
attracted  Emperor  Shah  Jehan’s  attention,  but  he  shrewdly 
made  common  cause  with  Aurangzeb  and  assisted  him  in 
gaining  the  throne  through  fratricidal  conflict.  He  became  the 
trusted  counsellor  of  the  new  Emperor  who  showered  gifts  and 
patronage  on  him.  He  rose  to  become  the  acknowledged  chief 


K.  M.  Munshi 

of  the  Turani  soldiery.  Abid’s  eldest  son,  Shihabuddin  Khan, 
arrived  in  India  in  1669  in  the  twelfth  year  of  Aurangzeb’s  reign 
and,  by  displaying  conspicuous  courage  in  the  wars  against  the 
Rajputs  and  the  Marathas,  gained  a  prominent  position  in  the 
imperial  court.  He  was  dignified  with  the  title  of  Ghaziuddin 
Firuz  Jang. 

Mir  Qamaruddin,  founder  of  the  Asaf  Jah  dynasty,  was  the 
son  of  this  successful  man  and  was  bom  on  August  11,  1671. 
He  grew  in  the  imperial  court  under  the  care  of  the  ageing 
Emperor  who  conferred  on  him  in  1691  the  title  of  Chin  Qilich 
Khan.  Following  Aurangzeb’s  death,  there  were  a  series  of 
pageant  emperors  who,  emerging  from  obscurity,  went  into 
oblivion  with  astonishing  rapidity.  Their  courts  became  hot-beds 
of  intrigue  and  corruption.  During  the  six  years  that  intervened 
between  the  death  of  Aurangzeb  and  his  first  appointment  as  the 
Subedar  of  the  Deccan,  Qamaruddin  saw  enough  in  Delhi 
which  decided  him  to  stay  away  from  the  capital  of  a  decrepit 
Empire.  The  first  period  of  his  Viceroyalty  was  brief,  but  his 
second  term,  besides  being  long,  ended  in  the  founding  of 
Hyderabad  as  a  state,  practically  independent  of  Delhi.  Thus, 
the  Deccan  state  came  under  the  government  of  Asaf  Jahi 
dynasty  which  was,  however,  careful  not  to  claim  independent 

Mir  Qamaruddin,  who  was  honoured  with  the  title  of 
Nizam-ul-Mulk,  was  a  man  of  the  world  par  excellence.  His  sole 
concern  was  to  preserve  his  newly  acquired  realm  from  becoming 
a  prey  to  the  Marathas  who  were  fast  becoming  the  most 
formidable  military  power  in  India.  The  affairs  of  these  warlike 
highlanders  were  controlled  by  an  able  and  astute  Brahmin,  Balaji 
Viswanath,  who  became  Peshwa  in  17 14.  Sir  Richard  Temple, 
who  had  made  a  first-hand  study  of  the  Maratha  history,  wrote 
that  the  Peshwa  “had  a  calm,  comprehensive  and  commanding 



intellect,  an  imaginative  and  aspiring  disposition,  and  an  aptitude 
for  ruling  rude  natures  by  moral  force,  a  genius  for  diplomatic 
combination  and  a  mastery  of  finance”.  The  first  Nizam  was 
equally  astute  but  totally  devoid  of  scruples.  Briggs  has  described 
him  thus:  “If  pliableness  of  will,  unparalleled  duplicity  and  utter 
unscrupulousness  constitute  the  necessary  elements  of  greatness, 
Nizam-ul-Mulk  possessed  them  in  a  degree  pasing  belief’*. 
These  qualities  did  not,  however,  avert  his  ignominious  defeat  at 
the  hands  of  Peshwa  Bajirao  I,  thirty  years  his  junior.  Bajirao, 
acclaimed  as  a  heaven-born  cavalry  leader,  inflicted  major 
military  defeats  on  him,  his  discomfiture  at  Palkhed  in  the  early 
months  of  1728  being  memorable.  It  was  well  within  the  ability 
of  the  Marathas  to  destroy  the  Asaf  Jahi  dynasty  at  its  very  birth 
were  it  not  for  the  fact  that  they  were  restrained  from  doing  so  by 
their  ruler,  Shahu.  Writing  on  the  subject,  the  historian  of  the 
Marathas,  G.  S.  Sardesai,  calls  attention  to  the  ruler’s  directive  to 
the  Peshwa:  “You  must  on  no  account  inflict  any  loss  upon 
Nizam-ul-Mink  or  injure  his  susceptibilities.  We  enjoin  this  on  you 
as  a  sacred  obligation  to  the  memory  of  your  revered  father”  .# 
Before  his  death  in  June  1748,  the  Nizam  earnestly  advised  his 
son,  Nasar  Jang,  never  to  come  into  conflict  with  the  Marathas. 

Whatever  greatness  there  was  in  the  founder  of  the  Asaf 
Jahi  dynasty  perished  with  him.  His  successors  inherited  from 
him  in  full  measure,  not  his  estimable  qualities,  but  his  cunning 
and  circumspect  treachery.  In  the  dynastic  disputes  that  ensued, 
the  contestants  to  the  Hyderabad  masnad  sought  the  military 
assistance  of  the  rising  European  powers  in  the  South.  Dupleix, 

*  The  Nizam  by  Henry  George  Briggs,  Volume  1,  Bernard  Quaritch, 
1861,  p.  53. 

#  New  History  of  the  Marathas  by  G..  S.  Sardesai,  Volume  IL  Phoenix 
Publications,  1948,  p.  100. 

10—473  M.  of  I&B/ND/81. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

who  became  Governor  of  the  French  settlements  in  India  in 
1741,  cherished  the  ambition  of  planting  his  nation’s  greatness 
on  Indian  soil.  Towards  this  end,  he  intervened  in  the  domestic 
disputes  of  the  rulers  of  Hyderabad  and  the  Carnatic.  Although 
Dupleix’s  successors  were  deficient  in  his  abilities,  his  countryman 
Bussy,  succeeded  in  establishing  French  ascendancy  in 
Hyderabad  by  putting  Salbat  Jang  on  the  masnad.  The  English 
traders,  however,  succeeded  in  dislodging  their  European  rivals 
from  the  South  and  in  eventually  winning  continental  sovereignty. 

Lord  Wellesley,  the  Governor-General,  who  perfected  the 
system  of  Subsidiary  Alliance,  decided  to  destroy  the  supremacy 
of  Tipu  Sultan  of  Mysore  in  the  South  and  sought  and  readily 
secured  the  assistance  of  the  Nizam  towards  this  end.  The 
Nizam  had  earlier  given  a  solemn  assurance  to  the  Mysore  ruler 
that  he  would  stand  by  him  in  his  drive  to  expel  the  foreigners 
from  the  country.  In  token  of  his  friendship  for  and  religious 
solidarity  with  Tipu,  he  had  sent  him  a  splendid  copy  of  the 
Koran.  When  the  Mysore  ruler  fell;  he  had  no  qualms  of 
conscience  in  sharing  with  the  British  the  territories  of  his  “ally” 
and  co-religionist.  The  Marathas  invariably  looked  upon  the 
Nizam  as  their  feudatory.  When  Lord  Cornwallis,  the  Governor- 
General,  suggested  an  aliance  between  them  and  the  Nizam, 
they  summarily  rejected  the  proposal.  His  policy  of  neutrality 
gave  them  a  great  opportunity  to  inflict  a  crushing  defeat  on  the 
Nizam  in  the  famous  Battle  of  Kharda  in  March  1795.  “The 
Nizam”,  wrote  the  future  Duke  of  Wellington  in  1806,  “by  the 
result  of  an  unfortunate  state  of  hostility  with  the  Marathas, 
which  ended  in  battle  and  peace,  or  rather  capitulation, 
concluded  at  Kharda  in  1795,  had  fallen  from  the  state  of  a 
great  and  leading  power  in  Hindustan  to  that  of  a  tributary  of  the 



Marathas.  His  ministers  were  appointed  by  the  Marathas,  his 
army  was  disbanded”* *. 

The  Nizams,  therefore,  rushed  breathlessly  to  the  British, 
imploring  the  foreigners  to  take  Hyderabad  under  their  protective 
wing  and  thus  straw-stuff  the  “sovereignty”  of  the  Asaf  Jahi 
dynasty.  The  Treaties  of  1799  and  1800  ensured  the  absolute 
subordination  of  the  State  to  the  British  power  in  India.  Professor 
Edward  Thompson,  from  whose  book  the  above  quotation  is 
taken,  does  not  mince  words  when  he  calls  attention  to  the 
degradation  of  Hyderabad.  “Its  importance”,  he  says,  “was  trivial 
in  the  extreme,  and  its  independence  completely  fictitious,  in  the 
half  century  before  the  Mutiny,  and  perhaps  most  of  all  in  Lord 
Wellesley’s  time.  No  one  deviated  from  an  attitude  of  steady 
contempt  for  it.  The  State  became  a  happy  hunting-  ground  for 
British  commercial  freebooters,  the  shady  transactions  of  Palmer 
and  Company  providing  a  striking  example  of  this  fact.  Sir 
Charles  Metcalfe,  British  Resident  in  Hyderabad,  suppressed  the 
Palmer  evil  at  a  great  risk  to  his  career.  Commenting  on  the 
Nizam’s  restlessness  “under  our  supervision”,  Metcalfe  declared 
that  “he  might  perhaps  have  been  roused  into  overt  opposition, 
if  he  had  possessed  energy  sufficient  for  so  manly  a 
demonstration”*.  Instead,  he  “abandoned  himself  to  the  delights 
of  the  zanana”. 

There  was  an  alarming  deterioration  in  the  Nizam’s 
administration  but  he  came  to  no  harm  for  this  because  he  was 
regarded  as  a  super-feudatory.  The  fact  that  the  durability  of  the 
State  depended,  not  on  the  abilities  of  its  ruler,  but  on  the 

*  The  Making  of  British  India  by  Edward  Thompson,  Manchester 
University  Press,  1917,  p.  206. 

*  The  Life  and  Correspondence  of  Charles,  Lord  Metcalfe  by  John 
William  Kaye,  Volume  I,  Smith  Elder,  1858,  pp.  363,  388. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

protective  armour  furnished  by  the  British  was  repeatedly 
brought  home  to  the  Nizams.  “The  two  great  Mohamedan  States 
of  Oudh  and  Hyderabad”,  wrote  Sir  Alfred  Lyall,  “were 
remarkably  weak  in  proportion  to  their  territory  and  revenue; 
they  carried  little  weight  in  the  political  balance;  and  the  chief 
concern  of  the  British  Government  was  to  prevent  their  premature 
dissolution”#.  Oudh  was  annexed  in  1856  but  Hyderabad 
escaped  such  a  well-deserved  fate.  Its  assistance  to  the  British 
during  the  formidable  uprising  of  1857  ensured  its  continued 
existence.  The  role  played  by  the  princes  during  that  critical 
period  was  a  revelation  to  the  foreign  Government.  Thenceforward 
the  abolition  of  the  states  for  any  reason  was  abandoned  for  ever. 

The  Nizam  became  the  most  pampered  feudatory  of  the 
Raj.  His  generosity  to  his  protectors  was  proverbial,  “Nizzy 
pays  for  everything”  became  a  common  saying  among  his 
exploiters.  He  received  imperial  patronage  in  various  ways.  The 
Quarterly  Review  acclaimed  him  as  “the  greatest  Mahomedan 
power  in  India”.  The  “Faithful  Ally”  of  the  Raj  was  dignified  in 
1918  with  the  tittle  of  “His  Exalted  Highness”  while  the  rulers 
of  other  states  were  mere  “Highness”.  The  Nizam’s  repeated 
attempts  to  secure  the  rendition  of  Berar  were  firmly  turned 
down.  Lord  Curzon,  how  the  ever,  soothed  his  ruffled  feelings 
in  1903  by  allowing  the  heir- apparent  of  Hyderabad  to  call 
himself  the  Prince  of  Berar.  The  Nizam  was  profoundly  thankful 
for  this  empty  generosity. 

But  such  favours  did  not  and  could  not  improve  the  political 
status  of  the  Nizam  which  was  one  of  distinct  subordination  to 
the  Paramount  Power.  All  the  principalities  that  survived  British 
conquest  were  treated  alike  to  ensure  their  absolute  loyalty  to 

#The  Rise  and  Expanion  of  the  British  Dominion  in  India  by  Sir  Alfred 
Lyall,  John  Murray,  1907,  p.  228. 



the  Raj.  A  British  authority  declared:  “The  differentiation  of 
states  as  allied,  tributary,  created  or  protected  is  illusory.  All  are 
alike  respected  and  protected  The  Nizam  was  thus  treated 
as  primes  inter  parse  among  the  protected  Princes  only  in 
unimportant  matters.  Interference  in  his  domestic  concerns 
began  from  the  time  Hyderabad  established  its  political  relations 
with  the  British.  For  instance,  in  1835,  1867  and  1897,  the  ruler 
was  asked  by  the  British  Indian  Government  to  give  good  and 
efficient  government  to  his  people  and  to  manage  the  State’s 
finances  competently.  A  few  months  after  the  accession  of  Mir 
Usman  Ali  Khan,  the  last  Nizam,  in  1911,  he  was  warned  by 
the  Viceroy,  Lord  Hardinge,  that  he  was  “on  his  trial  for  two 
years,  at  the  end  of  which  it  would  be  just  as  easy  for  the 
Government  of  India  to  appoint  a  Council  of  Regency  as  now”. 

This  man,  who  entertained  overweening  political  ambitions, 
was  warned  twice  by  the  Viceroy,  Lord  Chelmsford,  in  1919 
that  intervention  by  the  Paramount  Power  would  be  inevitable 
if  he  failed  to  administer  the  State  well.  The  Viceroy  declared 
emphatically,  “I  cannot  tolerate  misrule”.  The  Nizam,  who 
claimed  that  his  State  was  an  independent  “country”,  was  not 
free  to  appoint  his  own  ministers.  Almost  from  the  beginning  of 
Hyderabad’s  relations  with  the  British,  ministers  were  imposed 
on  its  rulers.  Mir  Alam,  Raja  Chandu  Lai,  Sar  Salar  Jung,  Sar 
Salar  Jung  II,  Vikarulmulk,  Sir  Krishna  Pershad,  Sir  Ali  Imam, 
and  Sir  Akbar  Hydari  were  all  nominated  by  the  British  Indian 
Government  to  govern  the  State.  Usman  Ali  Khan  admitted  in 
his  memorandum  of  July  28,  1918,  that  he  could  not  appoint  a 
minister  without  consulting  the  British  Resident  and  without  the 
consent  of  the  Government  of  India. 

*The  Protected  Princes  of  India  by  Sir  William  Lee- Warner,  Macmillan, 
1894,  p.  49. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Indeed,  till  the  lapse  of  Crown  Paramountcy,  the  Nizam 
was  never  allowed  to  forget  his  true  position.  Lord  Reading’s 
rejoinder  of  March  27,  1926  to  Mir  Usman  Ali  Khan’s 
assertions  on  the  Berar  question  is  memorable.  The  Viceroy 
declared:  “I  will  merely  add  that  the  title  “Faithful  Ally”  which 
your  Exalted  Highness  enjoys  has  not  the  effect  of  putting  your 
Government  in  a  category  separate  from  that  of  other  states 
under  the  paramountcy  of  the  British  Crown”.  In  the  same  year, 
the  British  Resident  in  Hyderabad  drew  up  a  memorandum 
stating  the  correct  constitutional  position  of  the  State.  The 
importance  of  this  less  widely  known  document  warrants  a 
somewhat  detailed  reference  to  it.  It  says  :  “There  can  be  no 
doubt  that  it  (Hyderabad)  owes  its  very  existence  to  the  British 
connection.  The  Asafia  family  had  not  taken  strong  root  in  the 
Deccan  in  1 800;  in  point  of  fact,  it  may  be  said  that  it  has  never 
ceased  to  be  foreign.  Without  the  British,  it  must  have  relied  on 
the  handful  of  Muslims  domiciled  in  the  State, 
a  forlorn  hope  against  Maratha  resurgence.  Left  entirely  to 
himself  it  is  doubtful  if  the  present  Nizam  would  be  able  to 
maintain  himself  for  any  length  of  time”. 

Calling  attention  to  the  polyglot  composition  of  the  State, 
the  perceptive  author  of  the  document  said  that  the  strong  move 
of  the  three  linguistic  regions — Andhra,  Marathwada  and 
Karnataka — to  break  away  from  the  Nizam’s  control  could  be 
neutralised  only  by  good  government.  The  Resident  “regretfully” 
observed  that  the  ruler  showed  no  inclination  at  all  to  soften  his 
“unchecked  absolutism”  in  the  government  of  his  State.  About 
the  constitutional  status  of  the  Nizam,  the  document  pointed  out: 
“The  limitations  on  internal  sovereignty  which  paramountcy 
implies  have  been  shown  to  exit  as  fully  developed  as 
elsewhere”.  The  Resident  categorically  rejected  the  Nizam’s 
plea  for  restoring  to  his  State  the  position  which  it  was  claimed 
to  hold  before  entering  into  political  relations  with  the  British. 



He  said  that  without  British  protection,  the  people  of  the  State 
would  soon  “sweep  away”  the  unpopular  Government.  He 
declared  with  absolute  finality:  “It  is  in  fact  impossible,  treaty  or 
no  treaty,  to  allow  an  unfettered  despotism  to  be  set  up  in 
Hyderabad”.  The  Nizam’s  claim  to  pre-existing  sovereignty 
was,  as  we  saw  earlier,  a  myth. 

The  Nizam  rashly  brushed  aside  all  these  irrefutable  facts  of 
history  when  he  declared  that  after  British  withdrawl  Hyderabad 
would  opt  for  complete  independence.  He  took  this  stand  by 
calling  attention  to  the  British  Cabinet  Memorandum  of  May 
1946.  In  a  firman  issued  on  June  12,  1947,  he  claimed  that 
“the  result  in  law  of  the  departure  of  the  paramount  power  in  the 
near  future  will  be  that  I  shall  become  entitled  to  resume  the 
status  of  an  independent  sovereign”.  This  was  a  patently  absurd 
surd  contention.  His  ancestor,  Qamaruddin,  was  only  a  subedar 
of  the  Moghul  Emperors.  He  and  his  successors  would  have 
been  dislodged  from  power  if  the  Marathas  had  willed  it  and  if 
the  Nizams  had  not  secured  the  protection  of  the  British.  So  at 
no  time  was  Hyderabad  an  independent  or  substantive  State. 
The  Nizam  could  not,  therefore,  falsify  history  by  making 
preposterous  claims  about  the  status  of  his  dynasty.  Soon  after 
India  became  independent,  the  Government  asked  him  to  bring 
his  State  into  the  new  Dominion.  His  plea  for  two  months’  time 
to  consider  the  issue  was  readily  conceded.  After  a  good  deal 
of  humming  and  hawing  and  with  no  intention  of  honouring  his 
commitments,  Mir  Usman  Ali  Khan  signed  the  Standstill 
Agreement  on  November  29,  1947.  Despite  the  extremely 
favourable  terms  granted  to  him,  he  was  determined  to  ignore 
the  Agreement  in  pursuit  of  the  mirage  of  “independent 

Before  making  an  assessment  of  the  magnitude  of  the  task 
that  confronted  Munshi  as  India’s  Agent-General  in  Hyderabad, 


K.  M.  Munshi 

a  few  facts  about  the  State  would  be  relevant.  The  State  was 
the  biggest  of  its  kind  in  India  and,  with  an  area  of  82,698 
square  miles,  it  was  larger  in  extent  than  England  and  Scotland 
put  together.  Hyderabad  is  landlocked  and  constitutes  the 
“belly”  of  the  Indian  Union.  The  State  had  a  population  of 
16,338,534,  of  whom  the  Hindus  were  13,310,045  and  the 
Muslims  2,097,475.  It  consisted  of  three  main  linguistic  areas. 
Telangana,  which  during  the  twilight  of  the  Nizam’s  regime, 
became  the  hot-bed  of  communism,  covered  almost  half  the 
State,  with  Telugu  as  the  mother  tongue  of  its  nine  million 
people.  Marathwada  was  the  next  largest  region  where  four 
million  people  spoke  Marathi,  The  third  area  was  a  chunk  from 
Karnataka  and  was  inhabited  by  more  than  two  million 
Kannada-speaking  people.  Over  this  multilingual  realm  an 
autocrat  presided,  his  Government  being  bolstered  up  by  a 
“fascist  minority”.  The  State  was  rich  in  natural  but  unexploited 
resources  while  its  mler  was  reputed  to  be  the  richest  man  in  the 
world.  An  oppressive  feudal  system  had  reduced  the  peasantry 
to  absolute  misery,  thus  paving  the  way  for  communism  to  gain 
ascendancy  in  districts  where  there  was  abysmal  poverty.  The 
administration  was  so  deeply  impregnated  with  nepotism, 
bribery  and  corruption  that  some  observers  felt  that  revolutionary 
changes  alone  could  purify  it.  This  dismal  situation  was  rendered 
worse  by  the  unbridled  activities  of  Razakars,  a  large  band  of 
armed  desperadoes  who  practised  extensive  terrorism  in 
support  of  their  Ala  Hazrat;  the  Nizam.  The  generalissimo  of 
these  violent  hooligans  was  Kasim  Razvi,  an  outsider. 

Munshi's  first  and  only  encounter  with  His  Exalted  Highness 
Mir  Usman  Ali  Khan  the  Seventh  before  the  latter’s  downfall  was 
remarkably  unproductive.  The  thought  of  meeting  a  man  of  such 
wide  reputation  was  for  the  Indian  representative  “mildly  exciting”. 
Accompanied  by  the  State's  Prime  Minister,  Mir  Laik  Ali,  Munshi 



called  on  the  ruler  on  January  9, 1948,  at  his  residence  in  King 
Kothi.  What  he  saw  in  the  palace  is  best  narrated  in  Munshi’s 
own  words  :  “As  we  stepped  out  of  the  car,  I  saw  a  thin  old  man 
with  a  stoop  standing  on  the  verandah.  He  was  wearing  a  faded 
fez,  a  moth-eaten  muffler,  an  old  sherwani  and  a  pyjma  which  had 
last  been  pressed  when  they  had  first  come  of  the  tailor’s  shop. 
It  was  difficult  for  me  to  place  this  man  correctly.  But  Laik  Ali’s 
very  low  and  respectful  bow  in  the  appropriate  Hyderabad  style 
left  no  room  for  doubt.  I  stood  in  the  presence  of  the  Exalted”. 

It  was  not  Munshi  alone  who  was  amazed  at  the  appearance 
and  apparel  of  the  Nizam.  Others  were  similarly  taken  aback. 
Alan  Campbell-Johnson,  who  had  accompanied  Lord 
Mountbatten  to  India  to  assist  him  in  the  epic  disengagement 
operations,  called  on  the  Nizam  in  Hyderabad  on  May  15, 1948. 
He  writes:  “Mir  Laik  Ali  stepped  forward  to  introduce  me  to  His 
Exalted  Highness,  who  was  sitting  almost  invisible  on  a  large 
settee.  I  was  staggered  by  his  thread-bare  appearance,  and  for 
the  instant  failed  to  realise  I  was  in  his  presence,  but  I  pulled 
myself  together  in  time  to  greet  him  with  fitting  courtesy”.  The 
visitor  noticed  that  the  Hyderabad  ruler  was  physically  decrepit 
but  mentally  alert  and  in  full  command  of  his  faculties.  He  was 
“arrogant  and  narrow,  but  on  his  home  ground  formidable”.  He 
was  unyielding  and  aggressive  and  dismissed  the  other  princes  as 
mere  noblemen  to  whom  some  “courtesies”  were  due!*  While 
scrupulously  avoiding  any  discussion  of  the  Indo-Hyderabad 
issue  with  Munshi,  the  Nizam  told  him  that  he  had  conveyed  his 
terms  to  the  Government  of  India.  What  those  terms  were  and 
how  extravagant  they  were  will  be  discussed  presently. 
His  talk  with  Munshi  was  rambling  and  embraced 
a  number  of  irrelevant  subjects. 

*  Mission  with  Mountbatten  by  Alan  Campbell-Johnson,  Robert  Hale, 
1951,  pp.  328-30. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

The  Nizam  believed  that  he  had  powerful  support  in  his 
challenge  to  the  Indian  Government.  The  submission  of  his 
dynasty  to  British  domination  had  lasted  so  long  that  he  refused 
to  believe  that  there  could  be  an  end  to  the  arrangement.  At  a 
banquet  given  to  the  last  British  Resident  on  the  night  of  August 
14,  1947,  he  said:  “It  is  still  my  desire  and  the  desire  of 
Hyderabad  to  remain  within  the  Family  of  Nations  known  as  the 
British  Commonwealth.  After  all  these  years  of  friendship,  I  am 
confident  that  the  ties  which  bind  Hyderabad  to  Britain  will  not  be 
severed”.  Evidently,  for  this  man  Britain  was  nearer  than  India, 
which,  in  his  eyes  was  perhaps  a  foreign  country.  The  outgoing 
Resident,  Herbert,  lost  nothing  by  mouthing  a  few  platitudes.  He 
said:  “I  join  with  your  Exalted  Highness  in  the  hope  that  a  new 
relationship  between  them  (Hyderabad  and  Great  Britain)  may 
soon  be  created  and  may  prove  as  enduring  as  that  which  is 
passing  away”.  The  Resident  was  prophetic.  He  did  not  anticipate 
that  the  Government  of  free  India  would  last  long  so  that  it 
would  not  be  long  befofe  he  could  stage  a  come-back.  He  did 
everything  in  his  power  to  damage  the  interests  of  the  Indian 
Government.  Besides  destroying  the  Residency  files, 
he  handed  over  three  military  barracks  to  the  Nizam.  The  latter 
was  not  slow  in  out-Heroding  Herod.  He  declared  “When  the 
British  go  from  India,  I  shall  become  an  independent  sovereign”.* 
A  number  of  British  nationals,  including  a  couple  of  journalists, 
who  had  found  their  occupation  gone  in  India,  made  common 
cause  with  the  Nizam  and  assisted  him  in  his  military  preparations 
and  propaganda  against  this  country.  Perhaps,  such  support 
emboldened  him  to  defy  New  Delhi. 

The  partition  of  India  on  religious  grounds  was  another 
reason  for  the  Hyderabad  ruler  to  embark  upon  his  foolhardy 

*  The  End  of  an  Era:  Elyderabad  Memories  by  K.  M.  Munshi, 
Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan,  1957,  p.  56. 



course.  The  birth  of  Pakistan  on  the  basis  of  the  preposterous 
two-nation  theory  was  little  short  of  a  miracle  and  had  created 
among  the  Muslims  of  the  sub-continent  an  unprecedented 
awareness  of  their  solidarity.  The  State  had  an  international 
reputation  on  account  of  the  religion  of  its  ruler  and  it  was 
wishfully  thought  that  the  entire  Islamic  world  would  outraged  if 
he  was  deposed  from  his  position.  He  found  in  Jinnah,  the 
founder  of  Pakistan,  a  staunch  supporter  of  his  “cause”.  Earlier, 
the  formidable  Qaid-i-Azam  had  been  shown  his  place  by  the 
Nizam  when  the  former  sat  before  him  with  outstretched  legs 
and  with  a  cigar  in  his  mouth.  He  angrily  asked  the  visitor:  “Do 
you  know  who  I  am?  Is  this  the  way  you  behave  towards  the 
Nizam  of  Hyderabad”#  Jinnah  promptly  corrected  himself,  but 
the  storm  having  burst,  apology  could  not  ease  the  situation. 

The  antagonists  later  buried  their  hatchet  in  pursuance  of  the 
common  goal  of  disruption  Indian  unity.  On  June  I,  1948, 
Jinnah,  who  was  now  the  Governor-General  of  Pakistan, 
declared  that  Hyderabad  was  an  “independent  sovereign  state” 
and  that  “not  only  the  Muslims  of  Pakistan  but  Muslims  all  the 
world  over  fully  sympathised  with  Hyderabad  in  its  struggle”. 
His  utterances  on  the  Hyderabad  issue  were  an  outrage  on  all 
canons  of  international  law  and  morality  and  constituted  a  gross 
interference  in  the  domestic  affairs  of  India.  Even  so,  there  was 
no  intrinsic  value  in  them.  Earlier,  when  he  was  asked  by  the 
Nawab  of  Chhatari,  who  was  then  the  Prime  Minister  of 
Hyderabad,  whether  Pakistan  would  be  ready  to  assist  the 
State  against  India,  his  reply  was  in  the  negative.  The  Nizam 
was,  however,  past  seeing  reason.  He  gave  a  loan  of  Rs.  20 
crores  to  Pakistan  which  was  against  the  spirit  of  the  Standstill 
Agreement.  His  first  aim  was  to  acquire  independent  sovereignty. 

#  My  Public  Life  by  Sir  Mirza  M.  Ismail,  G.  Allen  and  Unwin,  1954, 
pp.  98-99. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

If  he  was  foiled  in  this  attempt,  he  was  prepared  to  join  his 
State  to  Pakistan,  no  matter  whether  such  action  was  in 
violation  of  geographical  compulsions. 

The  Nizam  was  a  self-willed  autocrat  who  loved  to  live  in 
the  dreamland  of  his  own  creation,  but  until  he  came  under  the 
influence  of  rabid  communalists,  he  chose  his  counsellors  wisely. 
In  August  1946,  he  replaced  the  Nawab  of  Chhatari  by  Sir 
Mirza  Ismail  as  his  Prime  Minister.  Sir  Mirza  was  a  first  rate 
administrator  who  had  made  a  name  as  the  Dewan  of  Mysore, 
the  most  enlightened  and  the  second  largest  principality  in  India. 
He  had  also  served  in  Jaipur,  the  premier  Rajasthan  State  and 
was  instrumental  in  introducing  many  progressive  measures 
there.  Many  right-thinking  persons  in  Hyderabad,  including  the 
local  Congress  leaders,  rejoiced  at  his  coming  and  hoped  that 
a  new  era  would  soon  dawn  in  that  benighted  State.  All  such 
expectations  were,  however,  soon  belied  since  the  communal 
diehards  who  were  a  power  in  the  State,  were  solid  ranged 
against,  him.  Tendering  his  resignation  to  his  office  as  Premier 
on  May  15,  1947,  Mirza  complained  that  he  was  “opposed  at 
every  turn  by  a  certain  section  of  the  local  Mussalmans  who,  in 
my  opinion,  are  bent  on  a  course  that  is  suicidal  to  the  State”. 

The  good-natured  Nawab  of  Chhatari  was  reinstated  in  his 
position,  but  he  was  too  powerless  to  prevent  the  Nizam  from 
rushing  to  his  doom.  In  July  1947,  he  led  a  delegation  to  New 
Delhi,  with  Sir  Walter  Monckton,  Sir  Sultan  Ahmed  and  Nawab 
Ali  Yavar  Jung,  to  negotiate  a  settlement  on  issue  of  Hyderabad’s 
accession  to  India  and  had  secured  favourable  terms  for  the 
Nizam.  A  draft  agreement  finalised  on  October  18.  Nine  days 
later,  when  the  delegation  attempted  to  return  to  Delhi  with  the 
Nizam’s  signature  on  the  agreement,  the  house  in  which  its 
members  were  put  up  was  surrounded  by  a  menacing  mob  of 
Razakars,  with  the  co-operation  of  the  police,  to  prevent  them 



from  going  to  the  Indian,  capital.  The  Nizam  sent  for  their 
leader,  Kasim  Razvi,  who  persuaded  him  to  disslve  the  old 
delegation  and  appoint  a  new  one  under  the  leadership  of 
Nawab  Moin  Nawaz  Jung,  a  clever  Ittehad  fanatic  and  a  hater 
of  India.  The  new  delegation  included  Abdur  Rahim,  another 
Ittehad  extremist.  The  Nawab  of  Chhatari,  a  zamindar  from  the 
United  Provinces,  now  called  Uttar  Pradesh,  shook  the 
Hyderabad  dust  off  his  feet  on  November  1,  1947,  and 
returned  to  his  home  province. 

Sir  Sultan  Ahmed,  a  man  of  moderate  views,  soon 
discovered  that  no  task  was  more  thankless  than  that  of  Adviser 
to  the  Nizam.  Going  back  to  his  home  outside  Hyderabad 
Sir  Sultan  wrote:  “Unfortunately,  the  extreme  Muslim  opposition 
represented  by  the  Ittehad,  hardened,  and  the  leading  part  in 
this  opposition  was  played  by  Moin  Nawaz  Jung  and  Syed 
Taquiuddin,  the  Bihari  Secretary  in  the  Government  of 
Hyderabad,  whohad  been  dismissed  by  Sir  Mirza.  It  was 
suspected  that  the  opposition  was  also  receiving  great  financial 
support  from  Mir  Laik  Ali,  brother-in-law  of  Moin  Nawaz 
Jung”.  Nawab  Ali  Yavar  Jung,  who  was  later  given  positions  of 
great  responsibility  and  dignity  in  free  India,  was  also  disliked 
by  the  Ittehad  clique.  He  politely  declined  to  proceed  abroad, 
along  with  Mir  Laik  Ali,  to  negotiate  a  “defensive  alliance” 
with  Britain  and  America.  Like  his  sober  colleagues  in  the 
Nizam’s  service,  he  deplored  the  obstinacy  of  the  ruler  in  not 
facing  the  realities  of  the  situation.  He  was  a  Shia  and  when  he 
resigned,  a  regular  drive  was  launched  to  get  rid  of  the  officers 
of  that  sect. 

Mir  Laik  Ali,  a  convinced  Ittehad  man,  was  installed  in  the 
seat  vacated  by  the  Nawab  of  Chhatari.  Munshi  had  known  him 
before  as  his  client.  His  hope  that  he  could  establish  cordial 
relations  with  the  Hyderabad  Premier  and  thus  smoothen  the 


K.  M.  Munshi 

path  for  its  accession  to  India  was  soon  dashed  to  the  ground. 
The  two  certainly  met  often,  but  on  this  issue  there  was  no 
common  ground  between  them.  Laik  Ali’s  one  foot  was  in 
Hyderabad  and  another  in  Pakistan.  Jinnah  was  his  beau  ideal , 
with  whom  he  had  established  close  relations  and  was  prepared 
to  go  to  any  length  to  please  his  exemplar  and  his  Dominion.  He 
refused  to  see  the  writing  on  the  wall.  Even  when  he  knew  that 
resistance  to  India  was  futile  and  disastrous,  he  told  Munshi  that 
it  was  impossible  for  him  to  reconcile  himself  to  the  thought  of 
Hyderabad’s  accession  to  this  country.  When  told  about  the 
dire  consequences  of  such  stubbornness,  he  replied:  “Mr. 
Munshi,  there  is  such  a  thing  like  Sahadat  martyrdom”.  He 
derived  his  courage  to  tempt  fate  from  the  support  he  received 
from  the  Ittehad  and  its  “sword-arm”,  the  Razakars. 

A  brief  reference  to  these  lawless  hordes  is  relevant.  The 
Majlis-i-Ittehad-ul-Mussulmeen,  Ittehad  for  short,  came  into 
existence  in  1926,  its  founder  being  Mohmud  Nawaz  Khan,  a 
retired  official.  Its  aim  was  to  unite  the  Muslims  of  the  State  in 
order  to  support  the  Nizam  and  to  perpetuate  the  hegemony  of 
the  minority  community  in  it.  The  Khan  hoped  to  transform 
Hyderabad  into  a  Muslim-majority  State  by  means  of  large- 
scale  conversions.  The  Nizam  found  in  another  man,  Bahadur 
Khan,  a  zealot  in  the  cause  of  sustaining  his  supremacy  and 
raised  him  to  the  rank  of  the  aristocracy  by  calling  him  Bahadur 
Yar  Jung.  He  duly  made  his  protege  the  head  of  the  Ittehad.  The 
new  champion  of  communalism  was  impartial  in  his  hostility  to 
all  progressive  elements  in  the  State  and  swore  enmity  to  wards 
forward-looking  and  secular-minded  Hindus  and  Muslims  alike. 
When  he  died  in  1944,  the  Nizam  paid  him  a  remarkable 
tribute:  “He  was”,  wrote  His  Exalted  Highness,  “a  gift  from  the 
hand  of  the  Almighty  for  the  sake  of  protecting  the  rights  of  the 
elect  community  (Muslims)”.  Two  years  later,  Kasim  Razvi  took 



charge  of  the  fanatical  organisation  whose  headquarters  was 
ironically  called  Dar-ul-Salam  or  Abode  of  Peace. 

Razvi  was  an  abnormal  creature.  He  was  the  product  of 
Lucknow  and  Aligarh  Universities  but  his  megalomania  had 
driven  all  traces  of  culture  and  commonsense  out  of  him.  He 
became  a  fanatic  and  an  uninhibited  sadist  and  cultivated  the  art 
of  rousing  the  rabble  by  his  intemperate  and  mendacious 
outbursts  against  India  and  her  respected  leaders.  He  armed  a 
large  band  of  desperate  men  with  lethal  weapons  and  called 
them  Razakars  who,  besides  terrorising  the  Hindus  in  the  State, 
inflicted  barbarities  on  a  number  of  border  villages  in  the  Indian 
Union.  Razvi,  who  gradually  established  his  ascendancy  over 
the  mind  of  the  Nizam  by  judiciously  feeding  his  vanity,  became 
intoxicated  with  power.  The  Nizam  knew  that  the  man  was  a 
charlatan  and  once  called  him  a  “blackguard”  and  a  “tupenny- 
halfpenny”  fellow  and  yet  he  did  not  choose  to  show  Razvi  his 
since  both  cherished  grandiose  ideas  about  the  future  of 
Hyderabad.  The  demented  condottiere  expected  Munshi  to 
call  on  him  when  he  arrived  in  Hyderabad  on  January  5,  1948, 
to  take  up  his  new  responsibilities  there.  Munshi  disdained  to  do 
anything  of  that  kind,  dismissing  him  as  a  “hunchback  Fuehrer”. 
Alan  Campell-Johnson  has  drawn  a  vivid  picture  of  Razvi 
whom  he  calls  “the  complete  fanatic”.  His  stares  frightened 
friends  and  foes  alike  but  there  was  a  streak  of  absurdity  about 
him  which  made  it  difficult  to  take  him  seriously.  He  looked  like 
a  “blend  of  Charlie  Chaplin  and  a  minor  prophet”.* 

And  yet  this  absurd  man,  whose  rightful  place  should  have 
been  either  on  the  gallows  or  in  a  prison  cell,  wielded 
tremendous  influence  in  the  affairs  of  Hyderabad  and  was  in  no 
small  measure  responsible  for  its  ruler’s  downfall.  In  January 

*  Mission  with  Mountbatten  by  Alan  Campbell-Johnson,  p.  332. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

1948,  when  Munshi  went  to  Hyderabad,  the  strength  of  the 
Razakars  was  30,000,  but  by  July- August  of  the  same  year  it 
rose  to  more  than  100,000,  the  recruitment  target  being  five 
times  that  number.  The  function  of  the  rapidly  expanding 
organisation  was  to  terrorise  all  those  who  loved  their 
motherland,  irrespective  of  their  religious  affiliations,  and  to 
transform  Hyderabad  into  a  “country  of  the  faithful”.  Rev.  W. 
Lee  Cato  Edwards,  Head  of  the  Diocese  of  Medak,  Church  of 
South  India,  met  Munshi  in  August  1948,  and  bitterly  complained 
to  him  about  the  Razakars  atrocities  in  the  countryside  of  the 
State.  The  villages  were  looted  and  their  inhabitants  attacked. 
The  weapon  of  bribery  and  intimidation  was  freely  used  to 
coerce  the  Christians  into  toeing  the  Razakar  line.# 

Razvi’s  sole  aim  was  to  prevent  Hyderabad  from  having 
any  manner  of  political  relationship  with  India  and  to  reduce  the 
Standstill  Agreement  of  November  1947  to  a  dead-letter. 
Earlier,  he  had  made  a  desparate  bid  to  prevent  such  an 
agreement  being  concluded.  He  told  the  Nizam:  “If  Ala  Hazrat 
signs  the  Standstill  Agreement,  it  will  mean  the  end  of 
Hyderabad”.  His  public  utterances  were  as  unbridled  as  his 
misdeeds.  In  his  eyes,  the  Hindus  were  “barbarians”.  He 
threatened  the  Indian  Union  that  there  would  be  mass 
massacres  if  Hyderabad  was  invaded.  He  made  a  public  appeal 
to  the  Muslims  of  the  Deccan  and  to  Jinnah  and  Pakistan  to 
come  to  the  aid  of  his  Ala  Hazrat.  At  the  same  time,  he 
overwhelmed  Indian  leaders  with  vile  abuses.  There  was  indeed 
no  restraint  in  his  utterances.  On  one  occasion,  he  said: 
“Hyderabad  will  shortly  recover  the  ceded  districts  and  the  day 
is  not  far  off  when  the  waves  of  the  Bay  of  Bengal  will  be 
washing  the  feet  of  our  sovereign  who  will  be  called  not  only  the 

#  The  End  of  an  Era  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  p.  184. 



Nizam  of  Hyderabad  and  Berrar  but  also  of  the  Northern 
Circars”.  He  was,  he  claimed,  “rewriting  the  map  of  India  by 
bringing  together  a  union  of  Jamna  and  Musi.  We  are  the 
grandsons  of  Mohamed  Ghazni  and  sons  of  Babar.  When 
determined,  we  shall  fly  the  Asafjahi  flag  over  the  Red  Fort  in 
Delhi”.  The  admirers  of  this  lunatic  conferred  on  him  the  title  of 
Mujahid-e-Azam,  the  Great  Fighter  of  the  Holy  War!  When 
Razvi  met  Sardar  Patel  in  Delhi,  he  ranted  before  him  in  his 
customary  manner,  saying:  “We  shall  fight  and  die  to  the  last 
man  for  Hyderabad”.  The  great  man  calmly  replied:  “How  can 
I  stop  you  from  committing  suicide  if  you  want  to?” 

Probably,  the  November  Standstill  Agreement  would  never 
have  materialised  were  it  not  for  the  patient  and  persevering 
efforts  of  Sir  Walter  Monckton,  the  Nizam's  Constitutional 
Adviser.  Sir  Walter  was  a  distinguished  lawyer,  and  an  able  and 
accomplished  negotiator.  Munshi  points  out  that,  as  counsel,  this 
British  lawyer  was  very  much  in  demand  by  the  solicitors  of  the 
Bombay  High  Court  in  appeals  to  the  Privy  Council.  Some  of 
the  cases  Munshi  had  conducted  in  Bombay  were,  “admirably 
handled  by  him  in  appeal  to  the  Privy  Council”.  To  these 
distinguished  qualities  were  added  Sir  Walter’s  close  friendship 
with  Lord  Mountbatten  who  had  assumed  the  responsibility  for 
grasping  the  Hyderabad  nettle  on  behalf  of  the  Indian  Union. 
Besides  being  prepared  to  go  a  long  way  to  accommodate  his 
lawyer  friend,  the  Govemer-General  was  anxious  to  settle  the 
Hyderabad  question  almost  at  all  costs  before  leaving  India  in 
June  1948.  Sir  Walter  was  not  happy  with  his  assignment. 
Apart’  from  the  fact  that  he  felt  insulted  by  Razvi’s  insinuations 
and  innuendoes,  he  found  in  the  Nizam  an  impossible  client. 
And  yet  he  persisted  and  succeeded  in  securing  for  Hyderabad 
unique  concessions  as  embodied  in  the  Standstill  Agreement. 
Later,  when  he  found  the  Nizam  unyielding  even  after  larger 
concessions  had  been  won  from  the  Union  Government, 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Sir  Walter  decided  to  return  to  England.  Asked  by  his 
intransigent  client  when  he  would  return,  he  replied:  “I  hope  you 
will  still  be  the  Nizam  when  I  come  again”.* 

It  was  clear  from  the  outset  that  the  Nizam  had  no  intention 
at  all  of  giving  an  honest  trial  to  the  November  agreement.  He 
was  advised  that  what  was  arrived  at  was  only  a  temporary 
arrangement  in  order  to  get  “a  full  and  comparative  peace 
during  which,  as  we  have  often  said,  we  can  see  how  the  two 
Dominions  get  along  and  how  far  we  can  prepare  ourselves 
for  a  more  genuine  display  of  independence  later  on”  .#  But 
one  year  was  too  long  a  period  for  the  Nizam  to  wait  for 
donning  the  robes  of  royalty.  Isolated  from  the  mainstream  of 
Indian  national  life  and  continually  fed  with  the  Razakar 
propaganda  about  the  invincibility  of  his  position,  he  believed 
that  India  was  too  weak  to  be  able  to  bridle  his  overweening 
ambitions.  Evidence  mounted  rapidly  to  prove  that  the  Laik  Ali 
Government,  which  was  hand  in  glove  with  Kasim  Razvi  and  his 
retainers,  was  determined  to  treat  the  November  document  as 
a  scrap  of  paper.  To  counter  this  perfidy,  the  Indian  attitude 
began  to  harden.  New  Delhi  demanded  the  suppression  of  the 
Razakars,  the  introduction  of  representative  government  in  the 
State,  and  the  conduct  of  a  plebiscite  on  the  accession  issue. 

Laik  Ali,  who  wanted  the  Indo-Hyderabad  relations  to  be 
regulated  on  the  basis  of  an  Instrument  of  Association  and  not 
in  terms  of  accession,  agreed  at  a  conference  on  May  26, 
1948,  to  a  new  arrangement.  According  to  it,  defence  external 
affairs  and  communications  should  vest  in  the  Union  Government 
which  should  be  untrammelled  in  adopting  suitable  legislation  for 

*  Op.  cit  pp.  174-75. 

#  White  Paper  on  Hyderabad,  p.  23,  (Italics  Not  mine). 
11-473  M.  of  I&B/ND/8 1 . 



the  pur  pose.  The  Nizam’s  armed  forces  should  be  limited  to 
20,000  men,  of  whom  60  per  cent  should  be  non-Muslims.  The 
State  should  have  no  political  relations  with  any  foreign  power. 
An  interim  government  should  be  set  up  with  not  less  than 
4  per  cent  non-Muslims  as  ministers.  By  January  1,  1949  a 
Constituent  Assembly  should  be  convenced  60  per  cent  of 
whose  members  should  be  non-Muslims.  This  scheme  was 
drawn  up  by  V.  P.  Menon  and  was  accepted  by  Laik  Ali  during 
his  deliberations  with  Lord  Mountbatten  and  Nehru.  Sardar 
Patel,  who  was  convalescing  at  Mussoorie,  approved  it, 
but  insisted  that  it  should  be  accepted  by  the  Hyderabad 
Government  within  twenty-four  hours  of  its  Prime  Minister 
returning  to  his  State. 

Back  in  the  State  capital,  Laik  Ali  saw  no  reason  why  he 
should  honour  his  pledge!  At  a  dinner  with  Munshi  on  May  28, 
he  spoke  at  length  about  his  Delhi  discussions  and  made  an 
impassioned  plea  to  his  guest  for  “co-operation”.  He  said:  “I  am 
making  a  great  experiment.  I  want  the  bond  between  India  and 
Hyderabad  cemented.  Give  me  a  chance  to  show  that 
Hyderabad  can  be  a  source  of  strength  to  India.  I  know  you  are 
very  critical  of  me.  A  ou  have  come  in  my  way  more  than  once. 
This  time,  please  help  me.  Please  tell  Sardar  not  to  come  in  the 
way  and  for  Heaven  s  sake  do  not  come  in  the  way  yourself.” 
Munshi  was  surprised  at  this  impassioned  plea  and  replied  that 
he  would  certainly  help  if  Hyderabad  was  sincere  in  seeking 
Indian  friendship. 

There  was  absoli  tely  no  scope  for  further  negotiations,  but 
Mountbatten ’s  anxiety  to  settle  the  issue  before  returning  home 
and  the  pertinacious  efforts  of  Sir  Walter  Monckton  to  find  a 
modus  vivendi  induced  the  Indian  Cabinet  to  agree  to  the 
resumption  of  the  talks.  On  June  6,  Sir  Walter  and  Mir  Laik  Ali 
went  to  New  Delhi  for  the  purpose  and,  after  protracted 


K.  M.  Munshi 

discussions,  two  drafts,  one  giving  the  heads  of  agreement,  and 
another  about  the  contents  of  th e  firman  to  be  issued  by  the 
Nizam,  were  prepared.  On  June  7,  Sardar  Patel,  who  was 
thoroughly  fed  up  with  the  Nizam’s  intransigence  and  dilatory 
tactics,  wrote  to  Mountbatten  telling  him  about  the  futility  of 
merely  presenting  formulae  for  a  settlement.  The  various  violent 
incidents  in  Hyderabad  and  on  its  borders  had  thoroughly 
roused  Indian  opinion  against  it.  The  Nizam  must  agree  to 
accede  to  the  Indian  Union  on  the  three  subjects  and  to 
introduce  “undiluted  responsible  government  with  a  provision 
for  a  satisfactory  interim  arrangement  anticipating  and  facilitating 
such  introduction”. 

The  Governor-General  could  see  that  both  Nehru  and  Patel 
were  losing  their  patience  over  the  Hyderabad  issue.  He  could 
also  see  that  the  draft  agreement  prepared  on  June  6  embodied 
the  Indian  Government’s  last  offer.  On  June  12,  Sir  Walter 
Monckton  reported  that  the  two  documents  were  endorsed  by 
both  the  Nizam  and  his  Executive  Council.  Three  days  later, 
Mountbatten  wrote  to  the  Nizam  making  an  earnest  appeal  to 
him  to  ratify  the  documents  the  same  day.  “The  situation”,  he 
wrote,  “has  not  been  easy  to  hold  here,  and  we  are  all  agreed 
that  the  matter  must  be  concluded  today  Tuesday,  without  fail 
in  the  interests  of  good  feeling  and  friendship”.  He  told  the 
Nizam  that  he  had  only  five  days  left  in  India.  Although  he 
would  be  extremely  busy  till  his  departure,  he  could  still  find 
time  to  go  to  Hyderabad.  “I  am  so  anxious”,  he  said,  “to  be 
able  to  express  the  goodwill  of  India  in  person  to  you  before  I 
go  that  I  will  somehow  find  the  time  to  get  down  even  if  it  is 
only  for  two  or  three  hours,  for  I  should  much  like  to  renew  our 
acquaintance  before  I  leave”.  The  Nizam  failed  to  realise  that  he 
could  never  have  received  such  a  letter  from  the  Crown 
Representative,  his  overlord,  during  the  British  period. 



The  June  draft  agreement,  which  Mountbatten  asked  the 
Nizam  to  sign  forthwith,  was,  like  the  earlier  documents  of  its 
kind,  most  generous  to  Hyderabad.  It  committed  the  State 
Government  to  pass  legislation  similar  to  that  of  the  Government 
of  India  in  matters  pertaining  to  defence,  external  affairs  and 
communications.  The  strength  of  the  Hyderabad  Army  should 
not  be  more  than  20,000  while  the  State’s  irregular  forces, 
should  be  limited  to  8,000.  The  Indian  Government  undertook 
to  supply  arms,  ammunition,  and  equipment  to  the  Hyderabad 
Army  on  the  scale  prescribed  in  the  Agreement.  The  Indian 
armed  forces  would  not  be  stationed  in  Hyderabad  except  in  an 
emergency  and  would  be  withdrawn  as  soon  as  the  necessity 
ceased.  Hyderabad’s  external  relations  would  be  conducted  by 
New  Delhi  but  the  State  would  be  free  to  establish  trade 
agencies  in  foreign  countries.  According  to  the  draft  firman,  the 
Nizam  agreed  to  hold  a  plebiscite  in  his  State  on  the  question 
of  its  accession  to  India  and  would  abide  by  the  people’s 
verdict.  A  Constituent  Assembly  would  be  convened  in  early 
1949  with  a  view  to  introducing  responsible  government  in  the 
State.  A  new  interim  Government  would  be  formed  in 
consultation  with  the  leaders  of  the  major  political  parties. 

The  concessions  wrung  by  the  Nizam  from  an  unwilling 
Indian  Government  were,  according  to  any  assessment,  far 
reaching,  but  so  perverse  was  the  politics  of  the  State  and  his 
own  thinking  that  they  failed  to  appease  him  and  his  rabid 
counsellors.  On  June  19,  Munshi  had  a  fairly  long  discussion  on 
Hyderabad  with  Mountbatten  on  the  eve  of  his  departure  from 
India.  The  British  statesman  told  him  that  he  had  had  many  jolts 
in  his  life  but  the  Hyderabad  episode  gave  him  the  greatest 
shock.  “I  could  not  help  reflecting  once  again”,  wrote  Munshi, 
“that  a  little  more  sternness  on  his  (Mountbatten ’s)  part,  and  a 
little  less  dependence  on  Sir  Walter  Monckton’s  advocacy, 
would  have  brought  accession  in  March”.  The  retirement  of 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Mountbatten  from  India  on  June  21  and  the  departure  of  Sir 
Walter  two  days  earlier  brought  to  a  welcome  end  all 
uncertainties  about  the  Indian  Government’s  attitude  towards 
the  Nizam  and  his  pretensions.  It  was  absurd  for  him  to  claim, 
by  ignoring  the  whole  range  of  historical  facts,  that  his  State  was 
unique  among  the  Indian  principalities.  It  was  equally  absurd  on 
his  part  to  dismiss  other  rulers,  including  those  of  such  important 
States  as  Mysore,  Gwalior  and  Baroda,  as  mere  nobles  while 
claiming  the  attributes  of  royalty  for  himself.  Sardar  Patel,  who 
now  handled  the  Hyderabad  question,  was  the  last  man  to  be 
deluded  by  such  fables. 

The  Sardar  was  convinced  that  so  long  as  Hyderabad 
remained  under  the  Nizam’s  control,  the  State  would  be  “a 
cancer  in  the  belly  of  India”.  He  decided  to  rid  the  country  of 
this  dangerous  disease.  He  kept  himself  in  close  touch  with 
Munshi  to  be  able  to  feel  the  pulse  of  the  State.  When  Munshi 
told  him  about  some  minor  attempts  in  Hyderabad  to  bring 
about  a  settlement  as  envisaged  by  Mountbatten,  he  replied: 
“The  settlement  has  gone  to  England”!  In  a  hardhitting  speech 
on  July  15,  1948,  he  declared.  “Many  have  asked  me  the 
question  what  is  going  to  happen  to  Hyderabad.  They  forget 
that  when  I  spoke  at  Junagadh  I  said  openly  that  if  Hyderabad 
did  not  behave  properly  it  would  have  to  go  the  way  Junagadh 
did.  Those  words  still-stand  and  I  stand  by  those  words.  The 
former  Governor-General,  Lord  Mountbatten,  thought  that  he 
would  be  able  to  secure  a  peaceful  settlement.  I  let  him  do  so. 
He  tried  his  best  But  I  should  like  to  make  one  thing  clear.... 
The  terms  and  the  talks  which  Mountbatten  had  have  gone 
with  him.  Now  the  settlement  with  the  Nizam  will  have  to 
be  on  the  lines  of  other  settlements  with  the  States.  No  help 



from  outside  on  which  he  seems  to  rest  his  pathetic  hopes 
would  avail  him.”*  (Italics  mine).  That  was  the  type  of 
language  Indian  opinion  had  long  waited  to  hear  from  the 
Government  leaders. 

The  Bourbons  in  Hyderabad  were,  however,  determined  to 
learn  nothing  and  forget  nothing.  The  Nizam  was  not  prepared 
to  shed  the  illusion  that  the  British  could  still  help  him.  On  July 
4,  he  appealed  to  the  British  Prime  Minister,  Clement  Attlee,  to 
intervene.  Jawaharlal  Nehru  also  wrote  to  the  British  Prime 
Minister  apprising  him  of  the  real  position.  Attlee  told  the  Nizam 
that  he  was  unable  to  intervene.  “The  Labour  Government”, 
Munshi  wrote,  “throughout  had  played  and  were  playing  a  very 
honourable  part  in  the  matter  of  India”.  But  the  stand  of  the 
Tories,  most  of  whom  were  arch  imperialists,  was  different. 
They  could  not  forgive  the  Congress  for  hastening  the  end  of 
their  Raj  in  India.  They  described  India’s  belated  punitive  action 
against  the  Nizam’s  Government  in  September  as  an  “act  of 
aggression”.  It  was  because  of  the  encouragement  given  by  the 
international  reactionaries  that  it  summoned  courage  to  take  its 
spurious  case  to  the  Security  Council  of  the  United  Nations. 
Revealing  his  Government’s  move  in  the  State  Legislative 
Assembly  on  August  2,  Laik  Ali  spoke  the  language  of  a  martyr. 
He  said:  “They  (the  Government  of  India)  may  coerce  us.  They 
may  subject  us  to  any  ordeals.  They  may  overrun  us  by  their 
military  strength.  We  cannot  give  up  our  stand”.  The  Nizam 
knew  that  the  collision  course  he  had  adopted  was  suicidal,  but 
it  was  now  too  late  for  him  to  retrace  his  steps.  While  dining 
with  Munshi  on  August  9,  Laik  Ali  told  him  categorically  that 
accession  to  India  was  impossible. 

*  On  Indian  Problems,  Sardar  Patel’s  Speeches,  p.  40. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

The  Nizam  had  prepared  himself  for  a  show-down  with  India 
and  had  spent  as  much  as  Rs.  22  crores  on  war-like  preparations. 
Few  in  Hyderabad  believed  that  resistance  to  Indian  military 
action  would  succeed.  Long  before  hostilities  broke  out,  the 
State’s  prospects  were  discussed  at  the  highest  level.  When  El- 
Edroos,  Commander-in-Chief  of  the  Hyderabad  army,  was 
asked  how  long  his  forces  could  hold  out,  he  replied:  “Not  more 
than  four  days”.  The  Nizam  intervened  with  the  astounding 
observation:  “Not  more  than  two”.  And  yet  he  allowed  himself  to 
be  dragged  by  the  collar  to  his  doom.  The  Indian  Prime  Minister 
told  the  national  legislature  on  September  7  that  his  Government 
had  made  a  final  demand  on  the  Nizam  to  ban  the  Razakar 
organisation  and  to  agree  to  the  reposting  of  Indian  troops  in 
Hyderabad.  By  way  of  reply  to  Nehru’s  plea,  the  Nizam  ordered 
the  mobilization  of  his  armed  forces  the  same  day,  thus  throwing 
down  the  gauntlet  to  the  Indian  Government.  The  new  Governor- 
General,  C.  Rajagopalachari’s  earnest  appeals  to  him  to  see 
reason  before  it  was  too  late  were  ignored. 

India  was  convinced  that  it  would  be  impossible  to  bring  the 
Nizam  to  his  senses  without  decisive  military  action,  but  the 
partition  of  the  country  had  caused  disarray  in  its  affairs, 
including  in  its  armed  forces.  Some  twenty  thousand  tried 
soldiers  were,  however,  assembled  and  ordered  on  September 
13,  1948,  to  march  into  Hyderabad  under  the  command  of 
Major-General  J.  N.  Chaudhuri.  Ranged  against  the  Indian 
army  were  the  Nizam’s  troops  numbering  twenty-two  thousand. 
They  were  assisted  by  numerous  armed  bandits,  calling 
themselves  Razakars.  The  Hyderabad  Radio  was  untiring  in 
putting  out  fictitious  reports  of  resounding  victories  for  the  State 
Forces.  It  chanted  “Insha  allah!  The  Hyderabad  army  is 
winning  rapid  successes”.  There  was  no  limit  to  the  mendacious 
propaganda.  The  world  was  told  that  the  Nizam’s  victorious 
army  was  approaching  Goa!  In  Pakistan,  whose  Qaid-i-Azam’s 



death  was  announced  on  September  12,  the  bereaved  “nation’ 
derived  much  comfort  from  the  glad  tidings  about  India’s 

The  facts  were,  however,  entirely  different.  The  Hyderabad 
Army  never  gave  a  determined  stand  against  the  Indian  forces 
even  once.  A  large  number  of  its  men,  sworn  to  support  the 
Nizam’s  non-existent  sovereignty,  shed  their  uniforms  and 
disappeared.  Even  senior  commanders  deserted  their  posts  and 
yet  chose  to  send  deceitful  reports  to  their  headquarters.  The 
Indian  Army’s  move  towards  the  State  capital  was  swift  and 
without  any  serious  opposition.  On  September  17,  its 
Commander  received  the  surrender  of  the  Hyderabad  Army  so 
that  the  whole  operation  against  the  Nizam  was  over  in  108 
hours,  thus  confirming  the  historical  truth  that  the  durability  of 
the  Asaf  Jahi  dynasty  had  lain  not  in  its  military  prowess,  but  in 
the  power  of  its  protectors.  The  panick-stricken  Razakars, 
whose  warlike  ardour  had  never  gone  beyond  streets  and 
alleys,  were  hunted  down  like  vermin  wherever  they  were 
caught.  Their  bellicose  leader,  Kasim  Razvi,  deserved  to  be 
hanged,  but  the  kindly  military  Government  of  India  in 
Hyderabad  spared  him.  He  was  arrested  and  sentenced  to  eight 
year’s  rigorous  imprisonment  in  a  dacoity  case.  On  his  release 
in  1959,  he  ran  away  to  Pakistan  where  he  died  some  years 
later  in  well-deserved  obscurity. 

Meanwhile,  the  Nizam  was  making  desperate  attempts  to 
save  himself  from  certain  destruction.  He  sent  a  message  to  C. 
Rajagopalachari,  the  Governor-General,  saying  that  the  Laik  Ali 
Government  had  resigned,  that  he  had  ordered  the  cease-fire  to 
his  Army  and  that  he  was  allowing  the  Indian  troops  to  occupy 
Bolarum  and  the  Secunderabad  barracks.  He  invited  Munshi  to 
meet  him  in  his  King  Kothi  Palace.  When  the  Indian  Agent- 
General  called  on  him,  he  found  His  Exalted  Highness  in  a  state 


K.  M.  Munshi 

of  collapse.  The  change  over  from  arrogance  to  obsequiousness 
was  complete.  He  agreed  to  Munshi’s  suggestion  to  go  on  the 
air  to  announce  the  surrender  of  his  State  to  India.  He  told  his 
‘‘beloved  people”  on  the  radio  that  the  Laik  Ali  Government  had 
gone  out  and  that  he  had  issued  orders  for  the  immediate 
release  of  Swami  Ramananda  Tirtha,  President  of  the  State 
Congress.  He  took  the  opportunity  of  acknowledging  the  help 
Munshi  had  rendered  him  on  the  occasion.  He  also  announced 
the  withdrawal  of  Hyderabad’s  complaint  to  the  Security 
Council  of  the  United  Nations. 

Munshi  also  made  a  brief  statement  on  the  Hyderabad 
Radio.  He  expressed  his  happiness  that  the  Nizam  had  ordered 
the  cease-fire  and  told  the  people  of  the  State  that  they  were 
one  with  the  rest  of  the  Indian  population.  “We  are  one  people” 
he  said,  “and  we  cannot  be  parted”.  He  reminded  his  listeners 
that  the  Prime  Minister,  Pandit  Jawaharlal  Nehru,  had  repeatedly 
declared  that  India  was  a  secular  State.  It  made  no  distinction 
between  one  Indian  and  another  on  grounds  of  religion  or  race. 
He  assured  the  people  of  Hyderabad  that  their  safety  and  rights 
would  be  fully  protected  and  warned  the  law-breakers  that  their 
activities  would  not  be  tolerated.  Munshi  further  said:  “The 
Indian  Army  is  an  army  of  friends  to  rescue  the  life  of 
Hyderabad  from  the  nightmare  of  the  last  twelve  months.  I 
appeal  to  Hindus  and  Muslims  both  to  act  with  mutual  trust  and 
goodwill  to  enable  Hyderabad  to  achieve  its  honoured  place  as 
an  integral  part  of  India”.*  Laik  Ali,  who,  along  with  Kasim 
Razvi,  had  played  the  most  sinister  role  in  hastening  the  disgrace 
and  downfall  of  their  master,  was  arrested  in  Hyderabad  after 
police  action.  He  managed  to  escape  from  house-arrest  to 
Pakistan  in  March,  1950. 

*  The  End  of  an  Era  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  pp.  230-32. 



The  Nizam  was  treated  with  the  utmost  consideration  by 
the  Indian  Government.  Besides  allowing  him  to  retain  his 
immense  wealth,  he  and  his  family  were  permitted  to  enjoy  all 
the  personal  privileges,  dignities  and  titles  they  had  enjoyed 
before.  In  addition,  with  effect  from  April  1,1950,  the  Nizam 
became  entitled  to  receive  annually  for  his  privy  purse  a  sum  of 
fifty  lakhs  of  rupees  during  his  lifetime.  When  the  Indian 
Constitution  was  brought  into  force  in  January  1950,  Hyderabad 
was  given  the  status  of  a  Part  B  State,  along  with  Mysore, 
Kashmir  and  seven  States’  Union,  with  the  Nizam  holding  the 
position  of  Rajpramukh  in  his  State.  Following  the  dissolution  of 
the  principalities,  a  reorganisation  of  the  administrative  boundaries 
was  considered  necessary.  As  pointed  out  earlier,  Hyderabad 
had  been  a  tri-lingual  region.  As  a  result  of  the  formation  of  the 
States  of  Andhra,  Maharashtra  and  Karnataka,  the  three 
linguistic  areas  were  merged  into  their  respective  parent  states, 
thus  bringing  to  an  end  once  and  for  all  the  Asaf  Jahi  dynasty 
in  the  Deccan.  Soon  after  police  action,  the  civil  administration 
of  Hyderabad  was  put  under  the  charge  of  D.  S.  Bakhle,  a 
civilian  from  Bombay,  who,  according  to  Munshi,  worked 
wonders  in  reforming  the  administration. 

Munshi ’s  mission  in  Hyderabad  was  now  over.  As  Agent- 
General  there  he  had  to  function  under  grave  disadvantages. 
Both  the  Nizam  and  his  Government  had  virtually  isolated  him 
from  the  public  life  in  the  State.  But  no  discouragement  and  no 
obstacle  could  prevent  him  from  guarding  Indian  interests  in  the 
storm-tossed  State  with  the  unsleeping  eyes  of  Argus.  His 
presence  in  Hyderabad  was  in  itself  a  source  of  confidence  to 
the  terrorised  people.  Sardar  Patel,  who  was  responsible  for 
giving  him  this  assignment,  was  lull  of  praise  for  his  performance. 
In  reply  to  Munshi’s  resignation  of  November  6,  1948,  the 
Sardar  recalled  the  unsettled  conditions  that  had  existed  in 
Hyderabad  when  Munshi  went  there.  He  worked  “unremittingly 


K.  M.  Munshi 

and  with  single-minded  devotion  to  duty”  to  bring  about  the 
State’s  integration.  “On  behalf  of  the  Government”,  wrote  the 
Sardar,  “I  wish  to  say  that  we  are  deeply  conscious  of  the  high 

sense  of  public  duty  that  induced  you  to  accept  this  office . 

On  November  21,  the  States  Ministry  in  its  Press  Note  said 
that  Munshi  had  accepted  the  Hyderabad  assignment  at 
“great  personal  sacrifice”. 

While  performing  his  public  duty  in  Hyderabad,  Munshi, 
like  the  rest  of  his  countrymen,  suffered  a  tremendous  loss  in  the 
death  by  assassination  of  Mahatma  Gandhi  on  January  30, 
1948.  The  news  came  as  a  shattering  blow  to  Munshi  who 
happened  to  be  in  New  Delhi  at  that  time.  He  had  met  the 
Mahatma  the  previous  day  to  apprise  him  of  the  developments 
in  Hyderabad.  Essentially  a  man  of  reason,  Munshi  was  not  a 
hero-worshipper,  but,  so  massive  and  towering  was  the 
Mahatma’s  stature  and  so  enduring  his  achievements  that  the 
younger  man  could  not  help  regarding  him  as  his  idolised  leader. 
As  we  have  seen  in  the  previous  pages,  there  were  occasions 
when  the  two  differed,  but  it  was  impossible  for  Munshi  to  keep 
himself  away  from  Gandhi.  He  used  to  rush  to  the  Mahatma 
whenever  he  was  in  difficulty  or  distress  and  took  refuge  in  his 
counsel  as  a  man  takes  a  plunge  into  the  limpid  waters  of 
Mother  Ganga  for  a  refreshing  bath.  He  took  a  prominent  part 
in  organising  the  great  leader’s  last  journey.  In  a  tribute  of  tears, 
he  wrote  :  “Sri  Krishna  had  died  full  of  age  and  divine  honours, 
but  by  the  arrow  of  an  obscure  hunter,  Socrates  had  died  of 
poison,  the  victim  of  the  hatred  of  his  own  people.  Jesus  had 
died  on  the  cross  crucified  by  the  venom  of  his  own  people. 
Gandhiji  also  died  at  the  hands  of  his  own  people,  whom  he  had 
led  from  darkness  to  light.  But  he  died  at  the  height  of 
popularity  and  power  and  while  enjoying  the  spiritual  leadership, ' 
not  only  of  India,  but  of  the  whole  world.  He  died  in  a  manner 
which  befitted  a  spiritual  leader  of  all  times,  while  going  to 



prayers,  with  the  name  of  God  on  his  lips.  As  he  lived,  so  he 
died — with  majesty  and  grace — and  the  undying  halo  of  a 
martyr  was  about  him”.* 

Munshi  felt  greatly  relieved  when  the  Hyderabad  burden 
was  taken  away  from  him.  With  the  consent  of  Sardar  Patel,  the 
Chief  Minister  of  Assam,  Gopinath  Bardoloi,  offered  him  the 
Governorship  of  that  State,  but  his  heart  was  in  the  work  of  the 
Constituent  Assembly.  He  declined  the  offer  with  thanks  and 
returned  to  the  labours  of  constitution-making  with  his  customary 
zeal.  He  told  Sardar  Patel  that  be  would  go  back  to  his  legal 
profession  once  the  Constitution  was  adopted. 

*Op.  Cit.  p.  109. 


The  Constitution 

MUNSHI  WAS  ONE  OF  THE  chief  architects  of  the 
Constitution  of  free  India.  He  was  among  the  most  active 
members  of  the  Constituent  Assembly  and  served  on  most  of  its 
important  committees.  He  was  eminently  qualified  to  play  a 
crucial  role  as  constitution-maker.  Apart  from  the  fact  that  he 
was  an  eminent  and  experienced  lawyer,  he  had  made  a  deep 
study  of  the  various  instruments  of  government  from  the  time  the 
Indian  Round  Table  Conferences  were  held  in  London  in  the 
early  thirties  on  the  country’s  future  constitutional  set-up. 
Besides  reflecting  a  good  deal,  he  had  written  a  lot  on  the 
subject.  At  the  instance  of  Sardar  Patel,  he  had  examined  the 
legal  and  constitutional  implications  of  the  Nizam  of  Hyderabad’s 
claim  on  the  Indian  Government  for  the  retrocession  of  Berar. 
As  we  saw  in  an  earlier  chapter,  Munshi,  in  collaboration  with 
a  few  other  like-minded  lawy  low  had  fought  many  a  battle 
royal  in  various  ers,  courts  during  the  convulsive  “Quit  India” 
movement  in  defence  of  the  liberty  of  the  subject.  He  had  thus 
acquired  valuable  experience  of  the  potency  of  writs  as 
protectors  of  personal  liberty.  As  constitutional  adviser  to  a 
number  of  princes,  he  had  acquired  a  deep  insight  into  the 
various  aspects  of  constitution-making.  He  was  also  on  the 
panel  of  legal  experts  who  advised  the  Congress  in  its 
negotiations  with  the  British  Cabinet  Mission  in  1946. 

In  February  1946,  the  Chief  Justice  of  Bombay  High 
Court  asked  Munshi  whether  he  would  agree  to  lead  a  team  of 

The  Constitution 


lawyers  to  proceed  to  Japan  in  order  to  prosecute  the 
Prime  Minister  of  that  country  for  “war  crimes”.  Apart  from 
the  fact  that  Munshi  disliked  any  such  “post-mortem 
condemnation”,  it  was  impossible  for  him  to  be  away  from  India 
at  such  an  eventful  time.  On  the  eighteenth  day  of  that  month,  he 
met  Mahatma  Gandhi  and  at  his  instance  rejoined  the 
Congress  which  he  had  left  some  years  before  to  crusade  for 
Akhand  Hindustan.  The  resounding  success  of  the  Muslim 
League  in  the  elections  of  1945-46  had  convinced  him  about  the 
futility  of  striving  for  a  lost  cause.  The  Mahatma  exhorted  him 
to  devote  his  time  and  talent  to  the  task  of  framing  a  suitable 
constitution  for  the  government  of  free  India.  On  July  10,  he 
was  invited  by  Nehru  to  join  the  Expert  Committee  appointed 
for  the  purpose.  Besides  Nehru  as  Chairman,  the  Committee 
consisted  of  Sir  N.  Gopalaswami  Ayyangar,  Professor  D.  R. 
Gadgil,  Professor  K.  T.  Shah,  Professor  Humayun  Kabir, 
K.  Santhanam  and  Asaf  Ali. 

Munshi  at  once  became  busy  and  by  August  4  his  first 
draft  of  the  Constituent  Assembly’s  rules  of  business  was  ready. 
He  applied  himself  to  the  even  more  arduous  task  of  drafting  a 
full-fledged  constitution.  In  this  undertaking  he  received  the 
assistance  of  V.  K.  Krishna  Menon  who,  however,  left  for 
Enland,  leaving  the  work  to  be  completed  all  by  himself.  The 
preliminary  draft  consisted  of  some  fifty  articles,  including  a 
Preamble.  It  laid  down  that  the  Union  of  India  should  be  a 
“Democratic  Sovereign  Republic”  and  that  the  sovereign  power 
should  be  vested  in  the  people  of  the  country.  Commenting  on 
this  exercise  in  constitution-making,  Munshi  says  that  it  gave  him 
a  valuable  insight  into  the  manner  in  which  the  Constituent 
Assembly  could  be  helped  to  face  the  challenges  that  confronted 
it.  He  was  among  the  first  to  realise  the  need  for  the  Assembly 
to  assert  its  right  to  function  as  the  supreme  constitution-making 
body.  He  told  the  House:  “It  should  be  laid  down  definitely  by 


K.  M.  Munshi 

this  House  that  the  Constituent  Assembly  is  one  and  indivisible”. 
Such  a  stand  at  once  reduced  to  irrelevance  the  question  of  the 
Muslim  League’s  entry  into  the  Assembly.  A  set  of  rules,  based 
largely  on  Munshi ’s  draft,  was  adopted  which  put  an  end  to  all 
uncertainties  about  the  sovereign  status  of  the  Constituent 
Assembly.  Rule  7  made  this  fact  absolutely  clear. 

The  framing  of  the  Constitution  was  essentially 
a  joint  effort.  Sir  Benegal  Narsing  Rau,  the  Assembly’s 
Constitutional  Adviser,  was  equipped  with  a  phenomenal 
knowledge  of  constitutional  law  while  his  abilities  as  a  draftsman 
were  equally  outstanding.  As  Law  Minister,  Dr.  B.  R.  Ambedkar 
bore  the  brunt  of  piloting  the  Constitution  Bill  in  all  its  stages  in 
the  Constituent  Assembly  and  fulfilled  this  task  with  remarkable 
ability  and  erudition.  Nevertheless,  a  good  deal  of  the  burden 
fell  on  Munshi,  Sir  N.  Gopalaswami  Ayyangar  and  Sir  Alladi 
Krishnaswami  Ayyar.  The  three  worked  like  Trojans  in  close 
co-operation  with  each  other  and  were  acclaimed  by  the 
members  of  the  Assembly  as  the  “Three  Musketeers”.  As  an 
administrator,  Ayyangar  had  practical  experience  of  the  working 
of  the  government  machinery.  His  wide-ranging  mind  and  his 
acute  perception  were  of  great  value  to  Munshi  in  his 
undertaking.  About  Ayyar  he  has  written  in  superlative  terms.  He 
was  indeed  “the  most  eminent  lawyer  in  the  Constituent 
Assembly”.  His  industry  was  “untiring,  his  knowledge  of  law 
massive  and  his  subtlety  keen  as  a  razor’s  edge.  He  had  the 
photographic  memory  of  a  Brahman  with  a  long  ancestry  of 
Samhita  Pathis,  the  reciters  of  the  Vedas”.*  Like  nearly  all  the 
leading  participants  in  the  constitutional  debates,  Ayyar  was 
profoundly  influenced  by  the  British  political  system  as 
propounded  by  John  Stuart  Mill  and  Walter  Bagehot. 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  115. 

The  Constitution 


Munshi  has  drawn  brief  but  penetrating  pen-portraits  of 
the  leading  framers  of  the  Constitution.  He  had  known  Dr. 
Sachchidananda  Sinha,  the  temporary  Chairman  of  the 
Constituent  Assembly,  from  his  student  days.  Dr.  Sinha,  who 
edited  the  prestigious  Hindustan  Review ;  had  published  the 
young  man’s  article  besides  writing  a  “nice  letter”  to  him.  His 
address  to  the  Assembly  was  both  scholarly  and  stirring. 
Commenting  on  his  plea  to  the  members  “to  build  for 
immortality”,  Munshi  wished  they  could  do  so.  Of  Dr.  Rajendra 
Prasad,  who  was  elected  President  on  December  11,  1946, 
Munshi  always  spoke  with  deep  affection  and  admiration.  On 
his  assumption  of  the  new  office,  Dr.  Prasad  said  :  “Above  all, 
what  we  need  is  freedom  and  as  someone  has  said  "nothing  is 
more  valuable  than  the  freedom  to  be  free’.  Let  us  hope  and 
pray  that  as  a  result  of  the  labours  of  the  Constituent  Assembly 
we  shall  have  achieved  that  freedom  and  we  shall  be  proud  of 
it”.  There  was  a  galaxy  of  Congressmen  in  the  Assembly. 
Mahatma  Gandhi  had  warned  his  party  men  against  stultifying 
the  House  by  converting  it  into  a  one-party  body.  There  were 
certainly  a  number  of  non-Congress  members  in  it  such  as  the 
formidable  Dr.  Ambedkar  and  Dr.  M.  R.  Jayakar,  but  the 
Congress  claimed  as  much  as  82  per  cent  of  the  seats. 
A  sympathetic  interpreter  of  the  Constitution  wrote:  “The 
Assembly  was  the  Congress  and  the  Congress  was  India”.* 
Though  exaggerated,  his  observation  portrayed  the  status 
of  the  constitution-making  body. 

Commenting  on  the  Congress  representatives,  Munshi 
wrote:  “Of  this  group,  Jawaharlal  Nehru,  Sardar,  Rajendra 
Prasad,  C.  Rajagopalachari  and  Maulana  Azad  were  the 
acknowledged  leaders.  Acharya  Kripalani  and  Pattabhi 

*  The  Indian  Constitution:  Cornerstone  of  a  Nation  by  Granville 
Austin,  Oxford,  1946  pp.  8,  9. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Sitaramayya  came  next  in  importance”.  Nehru  was  indeed  the 
most  influential  member  of  the  Assembly  and  was  rightly 
described  as  its  idealist.  The  Sardar  was  ruthlessly  realistic  and 
never  allowed  himself  to  be  swept  off  his  feet.  Munshi  wrote: 
“Jawaharlal  Nehru’s  vision  of  a  democratic  India  and  Sardar’s 
instinctive  perception  of  the  sources  from  which  power  and 
stability  sprang  provided  effective  guidelines  to  us”.  Rajendra 
Prasad,  who  presided  over  the  Assembly  deliberations  with 
distinction,  was,  says  Munshi,  regarded  as  a  true  Gandhian.  The 
fact  that  he  was  the  members’  unanimous  choice  proved  his 
great  popularity.  Maulana  Azad  did  not  speak  much,  but 
whenever  he  spoke  he  did  so  “with  superb  self-confidence  and 
had  the  mannerism  of  what  he  really  was  a  religious  teacher”. 

C.  Rajagopalachari  was  a  man  of  shrewd  “perception 
and  his  “clarity  of  vision”  was  an  asset  to  the  debates.  Acharya 
Kripalani  spoke  eloquently  as  the  custodian  of  Gandhian 
principles.  Purushottamdas  Tandon,  “father  of  the  Hindi 
movement”,  was  widely  respected  while  Pandit  Gobind  Ballabh 
Pant  had  an  “uncanny  power  of  persuasion”.  Mrs.  Sarojini 
Naidu  and  Dr.  S.  Radhakrishnan  sent  the  House  into  raptures 
by  their  matchless  eloquence.  The  eminent  economist,  Professor 
K.  T.  Shah,  played  the  role  of  a  “one-man  opposition”  while 
H.  V.  Kamath,  who  in  the  prime  of  his  youth  had  spumed  the 
prestigious  Civil  Service,  spoke  often  and  with  much  sense. 
Sir  V.  T.  Krishnamachari,  an  able  administrator,  and 
T.  T.  Krishnamachari  were  noted  for  their  ability  and  eloquence. 
Pandit  Hridayanath  Kunzru,  the  Liberal  leader,  spoke  with 
admirable  restraint  while  K.  Santhanam  packed  a  good  deal  of 
thought  and  study  in  his  speeches. 

Pandit  Thakurdas  Bhargava  was  a  strong  defender  of 
democratic  principles,  Dr.  Shyama  Prasad  Mookerjee  was 
“perhaps  the  best  parliamentarian”.  As  former  Chief  Justice  of 

The  Constitution 


the  Punjab  High  Court,  Dr.  Bakshi  Tekchand  spoke  with 
authority.  The  distinguished  lawyer  and  jurist,  Dr.  M.  R. 
Jayakar,  was  one  of  the  “finest  speakers  in  the  country”,  but 
strangely  he  never  felt  at  home  in  the  Assembly.  Like  Maulana 
Azad,  Maulana  Hafiz-ul-Rahman  presented  the  point  of  view  of 
the  Nationalist  Muslims.  The  Shia  leader,  Tajamul  Husain, 
spoke  indignantly  against  the  communalism  of  his  co-religionists. 
Choudhry  Khaliquzzaman,  the  Muslim  League  crusader  for 
Pakistan,  suddenly  turned  a  nationalist  for  sometime  and,  after 
making  a  few  patriotic  speeches  in  the  Assembly  secretly 
disappeared  to  emerge  later  in  the  “Land  of  the  Pure”.  Begum 
Aizaz  Rasul  did  not  follow  his  example  and  said  that  Indian 
Muslims  should  thenceforward  “identify  themselves  completely 
with  the  national  movement”.  There  were  many  women 
members  in  the  Assembly  who  were  second  to  none  either  in 
eloquence  or  in  contributing  to  the  enrichment  of  the  discussions. 
They  included  Mrs.  Hansa  Mehta,  Mrs.  Ammu  Swaminathan, 
Mrs.  Renuka  Ray,  Mrs.  Purnima  Banerji  and  Durgabai,  who 
later  became  Mrs.  Deshmukh.  Munshi’s  own  abilities  as  a 
parliamentarian  were  considerable.  Whether  he  spoke  as  a 
legislator  or  as  a  constitution-maker,  “his  dominant  purpose  was 
to  construct  and  conserve  the  best  democratic  conventions”.* 

There  was  thus  no  dearth  of  able  and  sagacious  men  and 
women  who  had  set  out  to  frame  a  workable  instrument  of 
government  for  the  country.  Largely  on  account  of  India’s 
apprenticeship  to  British  rule,  most  of  the  constitution-makers 
were  strongly  influenced  by  the  political  philosophy  and  the 
parliamentary  institutions  of  Britain.  Drawing  attention  to  this 
fact,  Munshi  writes”  “From  the  days  of  Raja  Ram  Mohan  Roy 

* Constructive  Parliamentarian  by  J.  B.  Kripalani  in  Munshi  at 
Seventy-five ,  p.  96. 

12-473  M.  of  I&B/ND/81. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

(1774-1833),  Indian  political  thinking  was  based  on  the  British 
parliamentary  system.  Possibly  no  other  aspect  of  British  life 
influenced  the  Indians  more  than  the  political  system  of  the 
former”.  The  writings  of  philosophical  radicals  like  Burke, 
Bentham  and  Mill  were  accepted  not  only  as  models  of  English 
prose  to  be  cultivated  by  the  Indian  elite  but  also  as  the 
foundation  for  the  government  of  the  country.  Bagehot  was  a 
man  of  penetrating  political  perception  whose  study  of  the 
working  of  the  British  Government  of  his  time  was  unparalleled 
for  the  depth  of  its  insight.  Although  his  essays,  published  in 
book  form  in  1867  under  the  title  The  English  Constitution, 
became  out  of  date  following  the  introduction  of  mass  suffrage 
under  Disraeli’s  Reforms  Act  of  the  same  year,  the  treatise  is  still 
regarded  as  a  classic. 

Bagehot  maintained  that  the  “efficient  secret”  of  the 
English  Constitution  lay  in  the  “close  union,  the  nearly  complete 
fusion,  of  the  executive  and  legislative  powers”.  He  reiterated 
this  view  in  a  more  expressive  language,  to  which  attention  was 
drawn  by  Sir  Alladi  Krishnaswami  Ayyar  in  the  Constituent 
Assembly.  “A  cabinet”,  Bagehot  wrote,  “is  a  combining 
committee — a  hyphen  which  joins,  a  Buckle  which  fastens  the 
legislative  part  of  the  State  to  the  executive  part  of  the  State.  In 
its  origin  it  belongs  to  the  one,  in  its  functions  it  belongs  to  the 
other”.*  Bagehot  was  neither  a  reactionary  nor  an  obscurantist 
but  a  man  of  deep  perception.  He  was  firmly  of  the  opinion  that 
the  enfranchisement  of  the  masses  whom  he  called  “the  lower 
classes”  would  be  ruinouss  to  parliamentary  democracy.  Such  a 
measure  was  in  his  view  little  short  of  reposing  thoughtless  faith 
in  the  wisdom  of  the  mob.  He  was,  however,  not  the  only 

*  The  English  Constitution  by  Walter  Bagehot,  Thomas  Nelson,  1872, 
pp.  81,  85. 

The  Constitution 


person  who  feared  that  “constituency  government”  would  mark 
the  end  of  parliamentary  government. 

Another  authority  on  the  British  system  of  government, 
John  Stuart  Mill,  wrote  his  book  on  Representative  Government 
in  1861.  He  was  as  categorical  as  Bagehot  in  upholding  the 
paramountcy  of  parliament.  The  duty  of  the  Commons  was  to 
watch  and  control  the  Government,  to  censure  it  freely  and  to 
expel  the  men  composing  it  from  office  and  “either  expressly  or 
virtually  to  appoint  their  successors”  if  they  abused  the  trust  or 
fulfilled  it  in  a  manner  which  conflicted  with  the  “deliterate  sense 
of  the  nation”.  In  those  days,  the  Commons  had  not  become  a 
captive  of  machine  politics,  relegating  it,  like  the  Crown  and  the 
House  of  Lords,  to  Bagehof s  dignified  part  of  the  Constitution. 
The  Members  of  Parliament,  no  matter  to  which  party  they 
belonged,  were  free  to  criticise  the  Government  for  its  acts  of 
omission  and  commission.  Defeat  on  the  floor  of  the  House  did 
not  necessarily  involve  dismissal  from  office. 

Sir  Gilbert  Campion  in  his  summary  on  “Parliamentary 
Government”  in  the  Encyclopaedia  Britannica  says  that  in  the 
fifteen  years  between  1850  and  1865,  the  government  was 
defeated  on  an  average  of  ten  times  in  each  session,  without 
resigning.  Such  a  thing  has  become  impossible  now  either  in 
Britain  or  in  any  other  country  which  has  adopted  the  West¬ 
minster  system. 

The  framers  of  the  Constitution,  showed  admirable 
realism  in  providing  for  a  strong  principal  government.  Munshi, 
with  his  deep  historical  knowledge,  was  a  convinced  Centralist. 
He  wrote  that,  in  the  absence  of  a  strong  Centre,  “time  and 
again  India  had  been  placed  at  the  mercy  of  foreign  invaders”. 
A  strong  and  unified  authority  would  not  only  ensure  protection 
from  internal  disruption  and  external  aggression,  but  would  also 
facilitate  an  orderly  economic  development  of  the  country. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

India,  as  the  area  of  a  single  government  and  of  a  single 
economy,  was  essentially  a  British  creation  and  it  would  be 
imprudent  to  risk  the  loss  of  this  inestimable  asset  by 
surrendering  to  regional  chauvinists.  The  British  offer  of  May 
1946  was  rejected  by  the  Congress  mostly  because  it  provided 
for  a  Centre  without  the  power  to  enforce  its  authority.  The 
partition  of  the  country  was  a  permanent  warning  against 
allowing  excessive  autonomy  to  the  constituent  units  of  the 
Indian  Union. 

Munshi  was  indefatigable  in  his  efforts  to  construct  the 
Constitution  on  the  basis  of  a  unified  polity.  He  knew  that  a 
country  of  India’s  continental  size  could  not  be  governed  as  a 
unitary  State.  He  yielded  to  none  in  his  desire  to  see  the  States’ 
many-sided  growth — social,  economic  and  cultural.  But  he 
ranged  himself  solidly  against  the  advocates  of  an  extreme  form 
of  federation.  He  had  influential  support  in  his  drive  to  create  a 
strong  Central  authority.  While  Dr.  Ambedkar  was  in  full 
agreement  with  him,  Sardar  K.  M.  Panikkar,  an  eminent  historian 
and  administrator,  made  the  most  devastating  attack  on  the 
federal  principle  in  its  application  to  India.  In  his  Note  on  Some 
General  Principles  of  the  Union  Constitution ,  May  1947,  he 
made  a  closely-reasoned  plea  for  a  unitary  system  based  on  a 
strong  Centre.  He  characterised  as  “constitutional  orthodoxy”  the 
belief  that  the  future  Constitution  of  India  should  be  based  on  a 
demarcation  of  powers  between  the  Centre  and  the  provinces. 
He  held  that  the  doctrine  of  the  division  of  powers  could  be 
tenable  only  in  times  of  peace  and  was  not  at  all  good  in  periods 
of  “national  stresses”.  Federation  was  a  “fair  weather  constitution” 
and  it  would  be  a  dangerous  experiment  for  India  to  adopt  such 
a  system.  There  was  no  need  for  it,  especially  after  the  Muslim 
League  had  refused  to’  come  into  the  Constituent  Assembly.  “I 
would,  therefore”,  wrote  this  perceptive  parliamentarian,  “very 
strongly  urge  that  the  basic  principle  of  the  Constitution  should  be 

The  Constitution 


a  unitary  one,  with  large  devolution  of  powers  to  the  Provinces, 
and  with  suitable  provisions  for  the  States  and  other  units  so 
desiring  to  accede  in  a  limited  manner  to  the  Centre”.* * 

Panikker’s  salutary  suggestion  was  accepted  by  the 
constitution-making  body  so  that,  as  Dr.  Ambedkar  told  the 
House  on  November  4,  1948,  the  supreme  statute  of  the  land 
was  based  on  a  “dual  polity”.  There  would  be  the  union  at  the 
Centre  and  the  States  at  the  “periphery”.  He  explained,  that  while 
all  federal  systems,  including  that  of  America,  were  cast  in  a  “tight 
mould”,  the  Indian  polity  would  be  based  on  both  the  federal  and 
unitary  principle.  He  said:  “In  normal  times,  it  is  framed  to  work 
as  a  federal  system.  But  in  times  of  war  it  is  so  designed  as  to 
make  it  work  as  though  it  was  a  unitary  system.  ”  He  pointed  out 
that  in  modern  times  there  was  a  tendency  on  the  part  of  the 
Federal  Governments  to  acquire  more  and  more  powers  and 
predicted  that  a  similar  thing  would  happen  in  India  also.* 

Munshi  played  an  active  part  in  getting  several  Emergency 
Provisions  written  into  the  Constitution  to  ensure  the  Centre’s 
supremacy  over  the  length  and  breadth  of  the  country.  He 
certainly  did  not  want  the  arbitrary  and  undemocratic  Section 

*  The  Framing  of  India’s  Constitution :  Select  Documents,  Volume  II, 
The  Indian  Institute  of  Public  Administration,  New  Delhi,  1966,  p.  534. 
The  Princely  States  had  not  yet  been  merged  into  the  provinces  when 
Panikkar  wrote  this  note. 

*Ibid  Volume  IV,  pp.  422-24,  433.  The  United  States  of  America  is 
governed  by  an  ideal  federal  system  and  yet,  as  an  authority  points 
out,  “nowadays  the  federal  government  thinks  nothing  of  passing 
bills  to  control  practically  anything,  from  rat-catching  and  potholes 
in  the  roads  to  the  siting  of  new  hospitals  and  drains”.  The 
Governors  of  the  fifty  States,  who  met  in  August  1980,  demanded  that 
the  President  and  the  Congress  should  set  up  a  Commission  to 
consider  how  a  true  federal  system  could  be  restored.  (The 
Economist  of  London,  American  Survey,  August  30,  1980,  pp.  17-18). 


K.  M.  Munshi 

93  of  the  Government  of  India  Act  of  1935  to  be  revived  in  one 
form  or  the  other,  but  he  was  anxious  that  the  Centre  should  be 
free  to  step  into  the  States  during  an  emergency  whether  it 
related  to  law  and  order,  a  constitutional  impasse  or  external 
threat.  He  accordingly  pleaded  for  the  modification  of  the 
provisions  relating  to  the  provincial  constitution  in  order  to 
accommodate  Article  356  in  it.  This  Article  lays  down  that,  on 
receipt  of  a  report  of  the  Governor  of  a  State  that  a  “situation 
has  arisen  in  which  the  government  of  the  State  cannot  be 
carried  on  in  accordance  with  the  provisions”  of  the  Constitution, 
the  President  of  the  Union  may  assume  responsibility  for  running 
the  government  of  the  State.  Under  Article  352  the  President 
may  declare  an  emergency  if  he  is  satisfied  that  the  security  of 
the  country  or  of  any  part  of  it  is  threatened.  The  next  Article 
empowers  the  President  to  give  directives  to  the  States  about 
the  manner  in  which  they  should  exercise  their  executive  power. 
Both  Munshi  and  Sir  Alladi  Krishnaswami  Ayyar  influenced  the 
inclusion  of  Article  354  which  imposes  a  duty  on  the  States  to 
spend  certain  types  of  revenue  derived  by  them  according  to 
the  directions  given  by'  the  Centre  during  the  period  of  the 
emergency.  Munshi  was  also  responsible  for  the  incorporation 
of  Article  360  providing  for  meeting  any  financial,  emergency 
in  the  States. 

Munshi  brought  the  same  thoroughness  to  bear  on  the 
qustion  of  providing  safeguards  for  the  minorities.  He  felt  that 
the  most  important  task  before  the  Assembly  was  to  secure  the 
country’s,  political  consolidation.  Communal  representation  had 
done  great  harm  to  the  country  and  was  largely  responsible  for 
its  dismemberment.  It  was  imperative  that  the  debris  of  minority 
safeguards  left  by  the  British  should  be  removed  from  the  body 
politic  to  ensure  the  proper  working  of  the  country’s  free 
institutions.  In  this  great  task  of  secularising  national  politics, 

The  Constitution 


Munshi  played  a  key  role.  Sardar  Patel,  who  presided  over  the 
Committee  on  Minority  Rights,  bluntly  told  those  who  still 
nursed  separatist  tendencies  and  ambitions  that  they  had  no 
place  in  India.  Speaking  the  Constituent  Assembly  on  August 
28,  1947,  he  said:  “Here  we  are  building  a  nation  and  we  are 
laying  the  foundation  of  One  Nation,  and  those  who  choose  to 
divide  again  and  sow  the  seeds  of  disruption  will  have  no  place, 
no  quarter  here,  and  I  must  say  that  plainly  enough”.* *  Pandit 
Pant  was  equally  plain-spoken.  He  said  :  “Let  not  the  lesson  of 
history  be  lost.  It  is  a  lesson  which  should  be  burnt  deep  in  the 
hearts  and  minds  of  all  minorities  that  they  can  find  their 
protection  only  from  the  people  in  whose  midst  they  live  and  it 
is  on  the  establishment  of  mutual  goodwill,  mutual  trust, 
cordiality  and  amity  that  the  rights  and  interests  not  only  of  the 
majorities  but  also  of  the  minorities  depend”.* 

Munshi’ s  campaign  against  religious  representation  and 
preferential  treatment  for  the  minorities  was  not  directed 
towards  achieving  Hindu  domination.  He  was  convinced  that 
sectional  and  sectarian  demands  were  as  harmful  to  the 
communities  that  made  tnem  as  to  the  country  as  a  whole.  He 
advocated  secularis  n,  despite  his  deep  attachment  to  ancient 
Indian  culture,  because  he  believed  that  it  was  the  right  course 
to  follow.  His  concept  of  secularism  was,  however,  fundamentally 
different  from  that  of  the  advocates  of  a  “godless”  State.  He 
believed  in  religious  toleration  and  in  the  oneness  of  all  great 
faiths.  The  task  of  persuading  the  minorities,  inured  to  separate 
representation,  to  give  it  up  in  favour  of  joint  electorates  was 
not  an  easy  one  and  >et  Munshi  conducted  the  negotiations  with 

*  Constituent  Assembly  Debates  :  Official  Report:  14-7-1947  to  31-7- 
1947,  Volume  IV,  pp.  271-272. 

*  Ibid,  January  24,  1947,  Volume  II,  p.  332. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

great  confidence  in  their  outcome.  The  justness  of  the  cause  and 
his  own  persuasive  abilities  inspired  him.  He  writes:  “Whatever 
training  I  had  in  bringing  about  consent  decrees  in  courts 
between  cantankerous  litigants  came  in  handy,  for  no  two 
parties  were  prepared  to  give  up  easily  the  vested  interests 
created  by  the  British.  In  the  tiring  negotiations  what  helped  me 
most  was  the  confidence  which  Sardar  showed  by  leaving  the 
manoeuvres  to  me.  Whenever  any  matter  under  discussion  went 
up  to  him,  I  could  rely  upon  his  backing  me  up”. 
Like  the  Sardar  and  Pandit  Pant,  Munshi  played  a  significant 
role  in  getting  rid  of  the  pernicious  system  of  communal 
representation.  He  has  paid  a  handsome  tribute  to  Dr. 
Ambedkar  for  showing  “a  rare  sense  of  proportion  in  the 
discussions”  on  the  subject. 

The  constitution-makers  gave  much  thought  to  the 
creation  of  the  three  organs  of  a  modem  State — the  legislature, 
the  judiciary  and  the  executive.  Nehru,  the  idealist,  was, 
however,  anxious  that  the  Constitution  should  in  addition 
embody  the  Percilean  concept  of  political  liberty  combined  with 
social  justice.  “The  service  of  India”,  he  declared,  “means  the 
service  of  the  millions  who  suffer”.  The  Preamble  and  the 
chapters  on  Fundamental  Rights  and  Directive  Principles  of 
State  Policy  do  not  form  a  part  of  the  machinery  of  government 
set  up  under  the  Constitution,  but  they  are  regarded  as 
imperative  to  national  well-being  and  progress.  The  inspiration 
for  the  Preamble  came  from  the  American  Constitution  of  1789. 
It  committed  the  Indian  people  to  make  their  country  a 
Sovereign  Democratic  Republic.  In  addition,  they  pledged 
themselves  to  secure  to  all  its  citizens  the  blessings  of  justice, 
liberty,  equality  and  fraternity.  Munshi  tells  us  that  most  of  the 
leading  members  of  the  Assembly  were  in  favour  of  such  a 
Preamble.  The  inclusion  of  Fundamental  Rights  and  Directive 

The  Constitution 


Principles  in  the  statute  was  influenced  by  the  Prime  Minister’s 
predilections  and  Congress  commitment.  Like  the  American  Bill 
of  Rights,  the  Fundamental  Rights  uphold  the  right  of  the  people 
to  be  governed  by  the  laws  they  themselves  approve  and  not  by 
the  edicts  of  men  over  whom  they  have  no  control.  The 
question  whether  these  Rights  are  unalterable  like  the  Laws  of 
the  Medes  is  the  subject  of  much  debate  as  well  as  the  issue 
whether  Parliament  is  free  to  amend  or  abrogate  them.  Rightly 
or  wrongly,  subsequent  developments  in  this  country  have 
sustained  Dr.  Ambedkar’s  view  that  the  Fundamental  Rights 
embodied  in  the  American  and  Indian  Constitutions  are  not 
absolute.*  Munshi  has  revealed  that,  while  Nehru  was  keen 
about  such  matters,  Sardar  Patel  was  indifferent  to  them.  His 
primary  concern  was  to  give  the  country  a  strong  and  stable 
government.  He  believed  that  the  political  and  economic  rights 
of  the  people  could  be  best  secured  by  this  means. 

The  framers  of  the  Constitution  gave  much  thought  to  the 
creation  of  the  organs  of  the  Union  Government.  They  provided 
for  a  bicameral  legislature,  although  a  section  of  opinion  strongly 
expressed  itself  in  favour  of  one-chamber  Parliament.  We  have  a 
Parliament  which  is  expected  to  be  much  more  than  a  law-making 
body.  It  is  an  august  institution,  enshrining  not  only  the  sovereignty 
and  dignity  of  the  Indian  people,  but  also  their  hopes  and 
aspirations.  Its  functions  are  much  more  varied  and  important 
than  those  of  passing  laws.  It  should  ensure  that  the  executive 
fulfils  its  duties  and  responsibilities  strictly  in  accordance  with  its 
directives.  In  short,  it  should  watch  over  the  interests  of  the 
country  with  the  unsleeping  eyes  of  Argus  and  chastise  the  mling 
party  if  it  fails  to  fulfil  its  obligations.  It  follows  that,  in  order  to 
shoulder  such  responsibilities,  the  Members  of  Parliament  should 

*  Constituent  Assembly  Debates,  Volume  VII,  p.  41,  Ambedkar’s  speech 
on  November  4,  1948. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

be  knowledgeable,  upright,  honest  and  forward-looking.  In  fact, 
they  are  expected  to  be  models  of  eminence. 

Much  thought  was  given  to  the  structure  and  powers  of 
the  Supreme  Court  of  India  which  forms  a  vital  component  in 
the  trilogy  of  the  Union  Government’s  powers.  An  ad  hoc 
Committee  of  eminent  jurists,  with  Sir  S.  Varadachariar,  Chief 
justice  of  the  Federal  Court,  was  appointed  by  the  President  of 
the  Constituent  Assembly  to  make  its  recommendations  on  the 
subject.  The  Committee  included  Sir  Alladi  Krishnaswami 
Ayyar,  Sir  B.  L.  Mitter,  ex-Law  Member  of  the  Government  of 
India,  Sir  B.  Narsing  Rau  and  Munshi.  To  meet  the  needs  of  an 
independent  India,  it  became  necessary  to  change  the  basis  and 
the  powers  of  the  Federal  Court  that  had  been  brought  into 
existence  under  the  Government  of  India  Act  of  1935.  Munshi 
was  most  active  in  doing  this.  He  believed  that  the  Union 
Judiciary  should  be  endowed  with  extensive  jurisdiction  to 
ensure  the  efficient  working  of  the  country’s  legal  and  political 
systems.  Besides  urging  that  the  independence  of  the  High 
Courts  should  be  fully  protected,  he  said:  “Once  the  units  with 
provincial  autonomy  are  established  and  linguistic  provinces 
formed,  there  would  naturally  arise  a  tendency  for  these  units  to 
evolve  on  the  lines  of  petty  nation  States.  The  only  preventive 
to  such  in  attempt  is,  first  and  foremost,  the  influence  of  the 
Supreme  Court  as  a  unifying  agency.  The  Union  Government 
would  no  doubt  exercise  a  variety  of  influences,  political  and 
financial.  But  the  unconscious  process  of  consolidation,  which  a 
uniformity  of  laws  and  interpretation  involves,  makes  the 
unifying  unconscious  and  therefore  more  stable”.  He  wanted  the 
Supreme  Court  to  be  the  “crowning  piece”  of  the  Constitution. 
Thanks  to  the  labours  of  Munshi  and  others,  the  Union  Judiciary 
is  endowed  with  powers  much  wider  than  those  given  to  any 
Federal  Supreme  Court  in  the  world.  It  is  the  highest  court  of 

The  Constitution 


appeal  and  has  original  jurisdiction  in  disputes  between  the 
Union  and  the  States  and  between  the  States  inter  se. 

The  third  branch  of  the  government  is  the  excutive  which 
is  of  crucial  importance  since  upon  it  depends  the  security  and 
progress  of  the  State.  Munshi  gave  a  good  deal  of  thought  to 
the  vital  question  of  the  powers  of  the  President  and  the  Prime 
Minister  when  the  Constituition  was  in  the  making  and  wrote 
copiously  about  it  after  its  promulgation.  He  never  accepted  the 
contention  that  the  President  of  the  Indian  Union  or  the 
Governor  of  a  State  was  a  mere  figurehead,  with  no  functions 
of  any  kind  to  perform.  He  closely  followed  the  controversy 
between  Jawaharlal  Nehru  and  Rajendra  Prasad  on  this  issue. 
The  tendency  to  make  the  Indian  system  of  government  an 
imitation  of  the  Westminster  system  was  deprecated,  among 
others,  by  Rajendra  Prasad  and  Munshi.  Munshi  was  on  firm 
ground  when  he  maintained  both  during  the  framing  of  the 
Constitution  and  thereafter  that  it  was  impossible  to  dismiss  the 
Presidential  office  as  of  no  importance.  He  had  the  prescience 
to  realise  that  the  country  would  long  be  under  the  control  of  a 
single  party,  namely,  the  Congress  and  felt  that  adequate 
constitutional  safeguards  were  necessary  to  prevent  the  country 
from  becoming  a  mono-party-controlled  “totalitarian  State”. 
His  efforts  were,  therefore,  directed  towards  strengthening  the 
powers  and  functions  of  the  President  “so  that  in  a  crisis  he 
could  step  in  and  avert  a  constitutional  break-down  at  the 

Centre . ”  For  this  and  for  other  reasons,  a  number  of 

provisions  were  made  in  the  Constitution,  defining  the  powers 
of  the  President.  The  pivotal  position  that  was  accorded  to  him 
was  not  derived  from  any  particular  constitution  but  was  the 
“result  of  a  compromise  arrived  at  in  the  context  of 
Indian  conditions.”* 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.M.  Munshi,  pp.  255-56. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

In  a  closely-reasoned  and  ably-presented  essay  on 
the  Presidential  powers,  Munshi  declared  emphatically 
that  “no  responsible  member  of  the  Constituent  Assembly  stated 
that  the  President  under  the  Constitution  was  to  be  powerless, 
nor  was  it  so  understood  by  the  Constituent  Assembly;  on  the 
contrary,  several  members  thought  that  he  was  vested  with  wide 
powers”.  It  was  considered  imperative  that  the  President  should 
not  be  the  “creature  of  the  Parliament’ ’  or  a  “nominee  of  the  party 
in  power  at  the  Centre”.  He  must  be  an  independent  functionary 
charged  with  the  duty  of  preventing  parliamentary  government 
from  becoming  parliamentary  anarchy  or  “a  majority  government 
from  indulging  in  constitutional  excesses”.  He  was  in  fact  required 
to  be  the  supreme  guardian  of  the  Constitution.  Munshi  wrote:  “If 
the  powers  of  the  President  are  passed  on  to  the  Prime  Minister 
and  the  President  becomes  a  figurehead,  the  character  of  the 
Union  as  a  quasi-federation  will  be  totally  destroyed.  The  Union 
will  become  a  unitary  one  and  its  powers  of  maintaining  the 
unity  of  the  country  will  also  be  materially  impaired”** 
Munshi  certainly  did  not  want  the  President  to  be  a  dictator  and 
called  attention  to  the  various  constitutional  safeguards  against 
any  such  development,  but  maintained  that  the  head  of  State  was 
entitled  to  exercise  “supra-ministerial”  powers.  He  pointed  out 
that  much  thought  and  discussion  had  preceded  the  enumeration 
of  the  President’s  powers  which  were  stated  in  clear  and 
categorical  terms.  It  would  be  against  all  canons  of  logic  and 
reason  to  say  that  those  powers  were  not  at  all  intended  to 
be  exercised. 

The  President  under  the  constution  by  K.M  Munshi,  Bharatiya 
vidyaBhavan,1963  pp  10,25,36 

**  The  president  under  constitution  by  K.M  munshi,  Bharat  Vidya 
Bhavan,  1963,  pp  10,25,26,36. 

The  Constitution 


Munshi  and  his  colleagues  in  the  Constituent  Assembly  did 
not  have  to  struggle  much  to  find  a  model  for  the  Government  of 
the  States  since  it  was  provided  by  the  Government  of  India  Act, 
1935.  He  had  never  been  an  indiscriminate  critic  of  that  Act.  His 
experience  with  it  as  a  Minister  in  1937  had  convinced  him  that, 
with  suitable  modifications,  the  provisions  relating  to  the  provincial 
government  could  well  be  adopted  in  the  free  Indian  Constitution. 
The  crucial  issue  was  the  scope  of  the  Governor’s  powers. 
Nobody  in  Constituent  Assembly  wanted  him  to  be  absolute  as 
under  the  British  dispensation,  but  opinion  was  divided  on  how 
much  power  should  be  granted  to  him  under  the  changed 
conditions.  Munshi’s  views  on  the  subject  will  be  discussed  in  the 
next  chapter  which  deals  with  his  role  as  Minister  and  Governor. 

Munshi  was  a  firm  believer  in  the  rule  of  law.  He  was 
anxious  that  respect  for  law  should  not  be  jeopardised  on  any 
account.  Mass  action,  even  if  it  was  non-violent,  was  anathematic 
to  him.  Dr.  Ambedkar,  with  his  characteristic  bluntness,  had 
described  earlier  in  the  Constituent  Assembly  movements  like 
Satyagraha  and  civil  disobedience  as  the  “grammar  of 
anarchy”,  a  phrase  made  famous  by  the  British  statesman, 
Asquith.  Munshi,  who  held  equally  strong  views,  wrote: 
“Satyagraha,  as  a  collective  activity  is  certainly  unconstitutional 
and  anti-social,  paving  the  way  to  anarchy.  The  fact  that  it  is 
non-violent  does  not  make  it  less  unconstitutional”.  In  fact,  we 
have  seen  that  it  is  impossible  to  keep  Satyagraha  within  non¬ 
violent  bounds;  even  under  Gandhiji’s  leadership,  the  movement, 
at  many  places,  took  a  violent  turn”.* 

Munshi  has  every  right  to  claim  an  exalted  place  among 
the  principal  architects  of  free  India’s  Constitution.  His  knowledge 
and  industry  and  his  enthusiasm  for  the  great  undertaking  were 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.M.  Munshi,  Volume  I  p.  196. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

an  asset  to  the  constitution-making  body.  The  high  tribute  paid 
to  him  by  a  distinguished  judge  provides  a  fitting  conclusion  to 
this  chapter.  Justice  N.  H.  Bhagwati  writes:  “In  the  great 
process  of  framing  the  Constitution,  Munshi  played  an  important 
and  conspicuous  part,  taking  continuous  interest  from  its  very 
beginning  till  the  end.  Behind  many  of  the  ideas  enshrined  in  the 
Constitution  lay  Munshi’s  fertile  brain.  Future  history  of  India 
will  record  to  what  extent  Munshi  was  right  in  his  ideas,  but  he 
will  always  be  remembered  for  the  valiant  fight  he  put  up  for  a 
strong  and  United  India,  a  strong  Centre  and  an  integrated 
judiciary  and  he  is  assured  of  a  permanent  place  among  the 
Founding  Fathers  of  our  Constitution”.# 

#An  Architect  of  the  Constitution  by  N.  H.  Bhagwati  in  Munshi  at 
Seventy-five,  p.  93. 


Minister  and  Governor 

deep  conviction  regarding  him  as  his  supreme  exemplar, 
but  his  own  eminence  as  an  intellectual  and  as  a  pragmatist 
prevented  him  from  accepting  all  the  ideals  of  the  Mahatma  as 
sacrosanct.  For  instance,  the  Gandhian  approach  to  the 
communal  question  left  him  unconvinced.  Equally  unacceptable 
to  him  were  the  Mahatma’s  views  on  the  issue  of  council  entry 
and  constitutional  reforms.  In  July  1933  the  Mahatma  declared: 
“My  head  reels  at  the  very  thought  of  entering  Councils  for  the 
sake  of  wanting  independence”.  The  Government  of  India  Act, 
1935,  the  last  British  instalment  of  transfer  of  power,  was 
equally  sterile  in  his  eyes.  While  Nehru  dismissed  it  as  a  “slave 
constitution”,  Gandhi  delivered  the  coupe  de  grace  to  it  by 
telling  the  Viceroy  that  he  had  not  read  the  statute  at  all. 

Not  all  Congressmen  shared  this  point  of  view. 
The  predilections  of  C.  Rajagopalachari,  for  instance,  were  for 
working  Whitehall’s  political  reforms  for  what  they  were  worth. 
Munshi  had  deeper  conviction  on  the  subject.  He  believed  that 
by  taking  advantage  of  the  proffered  concessions,  the  Congress 
would  be  in  a  much  stronger  position  to  demand  a  complete 
transfer  of  power.  He,  therefore,  looked  at  the  Act  of  1935  in 
an  entirely  different  light  and  described  it  as  “a  great  feat  of 
political  acumen  and  constitutional  draftsmanship”.  He  believed 
that  the  statute  furnished  a  sure  stepping-stone  to  Dominion 
status  and  advocated,  through  press  and  platform,  office 


K.  M.  Munshi 

acceptance  with  a  pertinacity  that  provoked  some  degree  of 
uninformed  criticism. 

In  the  general  elections  of  1935-37,  the  Congress  won  a 
resounding  victory,  annexing  as  many  as  711  seats.  “The 
Congress  sweep”,  says  Professor  Brecher,  “is  all  the  more 
impressive  when  it  is  borne  in  mind  that  of  the  1,585  seats  less 
than  half,  657,  were  ‘general’  or  open,  that  is,  not  allotted  to  a 
separate,  closed  electoral  group.  The  balance  was  fragmented 
among  Muslims,  Sikhs,  Christians,  Europeans,  landholders  and 
others”.*  Munshi  was  anxious  that  this  great  achievement  of  the 
Congress,  signifying  its  matchless  hold  on  the  masses,  should 
not  be  reduced  to  naught  by  airily  dismissing  the  Act  as  useless. 
He  feared  that  Congress  rejection  of  power  would  give  an 
opportunity  to  the  reactionaries  to  capture  it  and  thus  unduly 
delay  India’s  attainment  of  the  ultimate  goal.  He,  therefore,  went 
to  the  Mahatma  to  persuade  him  to  withdraw  his  objection  to 
office  acceptance.  Gandhi,  who  had  not  read  the  Act,  asked 
Munshi  to  explain  its  provisions  to  him.  After  listening  to  him 
patiently,  the  Mahatma  said:  “From  what  you  tell  me,  I  think  we 
could  do  something  with  this  Act”. 

The  statute  conferred  on  the  Governors  of  Provinces  a 
plenitude  of  arbitrary  powers  which,  if  they  so  chose,  they  could 
exercise  to  the  detriment  of  the  popular  ministries.  Again,  the 
Congress  had  long  been  persona  non  grata  with  the  British 
bureaucracy  and  its  acceptance  of  responsibilities  of  government 
was  apt  to  provoke  jealousies  and  antagonisms.  Besides,  the 
danger  of  accepting  responsibility  without  power  was  obvious.  In 
March  1937,  the  Congress,  therefore,  directed  the  leaders  of  the 
Congress  party  in  the  legislatures  not  to  agree  to  form  popular 

*  Nehru:  A  Political  Biography  by  Michael  Brecher,  Oxford,  1959, 
p.  229. 

Minister  and  Governor 


ministries  in  their  respective  provinces  unless  a  solemn  assurance 
was  given  by  the  Government  that  the  Governors  would  not  be 
allowed  to  use  their  “special  powers  of  interference  or  set  aside 
the  advice  of  ministers  in  regard  to  their  constitutional  activities”. 
It  certainly  did  not  intend  that  the  Governors  should  divest 
themselves  of  their  special  powers,  but  wanted  to  be  assured  that 
they  would  not  be  used  with  impunity  to  thwart  initiative  and 
enterprise  of  the  ministers. 

There  was  a  splendid  response  to  the  Congress  plea  by 
the  leaders  of  the  British  Government.  On  June  17,  1937  the 
Prime  Minister,  Neville  Chamberlain,  told  the  House  of  Commons 
that  the  Governors  were  expected  to  use  special  powers  with 
“discretion  and  restraint”.  He  was  sure  that  there  was  a  genuine 
desire  in  the  House  that  “provincial  self-Government  in  India 
should  work,  and  work  well.  I  cannot  believe  that  this  is  possible 
unless  we  in  this  House  frankly  recognise  the  new  distribution  of 
responsibilities”.  Five  days  later,  on  June  22,  the  Viceroy,  Lord 
Linlithgow,  gave  a  detailed  elucidation  of  his  Government’s  stand 
on  the  issue.  In  a  message ,  he  explained  that  there  was  no 
“foundation  for  any  suggestion  that  a  Governor  is  free,  or  is 
entitled,  or  would  have  the  power,  to  interfere  with  the  day-to- 
day  administration  ol  a  province  outside  the  limited  range  of  the 
responsibilities  specifically  confined  to  him.  Before  taking  a 
decision  against  the  ad  /ice  of  his  ministers  even  within  that  limited 
range  a  Governor  will  spare  no  pains  to  make  to  clear  to  his 
ministers  the  reasons  which  have  weighed  with  him  in  thinking 
both  that  the  decision  is  one  which  it  is  incumbent  on  him  to  take, 
and  that  it  is  the  right  one”.* 

These  two  authoritative  statements  clinched  the  issue  in 
favour  of  Congress  foiming  its  ministries  in  July  in  Bombay, 

*  Linlithgow's  Speeches  and  Statements,  Government  of  India,  1945, 
p.  30. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Madras,  the  Central  Provinces,  the  United  Provinces,  Bihar  and 
Orissa.  Sometime  thereafter,  the  North-West  Frontier  Province 
also  came  under  its  control.  Many  months  later  Congress 
coalition  ministry  was  formed  in  Assam.  The  party  thus  gained 
a  commanding  position  in  eight  out  of  the  eleven  British  Indian 
provinces.  The  fate  and  future  of  India  would  perhaps  have 
been  different  if  the  Congress  had  not  given  up  its  governmental 
responsibilities  in  October  1939  on  the  issue  of  Britain’s  war 
and  peace  aims  in  relation  to  the  Indian  demand  for 
independence.  With  one  or  two  exceptions,  the  ministries 
worked  with  great  zeal,  ability  and  understanding,  thus 
demonstrating  the  existence  of  “constructive  statesmanship  in 
the  Congress  ranks”.  C.  Rajagopalachari  in  Madras,  Gobind 
Ballabh  Pant  in  the  United  Provinces,  Bal  Gangadhar  Xher  in 
Bombay  and  Dr.  Khan  Sahib  in  the  North-West  Frontier 
Province  rose  to  great  heights  of  statesmanship  in  guiding  the 
destinies  of  their  provinces.  In  two  of  the  three  non-Congress 
provinces,  the  popular  ministries,  none  of  which  owed  allegiance 
to  the  Muslim  League,  were  also  led  by  forward-looking  men. 
The  affairs  of  Sind  were,  however,  in  a  constant  state  of  flux. 

There  was  some  difficulty  in  the  choice  of  the  leader  of 
the  Congress  legislature  party  in  Bombay.  Normally,  that 
distinction  should  have  belonged  to  K.F.Nariman, 
a  Parsi  patriot,  who  had  won  national  reputation  by  his  bold 
exposure  of  the  venality  of  British  bureaucrats  in  Bombay.  He 
had  been  one  of  the  most  popular  Mayors  of  the  city  and  had 
won  the  hearts  of  the  citizens  by  his  tireless  labour  in  their 
cause.  He  stood  high  in  the  Congress  hierarchy  and  was 
esteemed  by  the  national  leaders.  But  his  astonishing  behaviour 
in  1934  at  the  time  of  the  elections  to  the  Central  Legislative 
Assembly  had  gravely  prejudiced  his  candidature  for  the 

13-473  M.  of  I&b/nd/81/. 

Minister  and  Governor 


leadership  of  the  Bombay  ministry  in  July  1937.  In  1934,  the 
Congress  decided  to  contest  two  seats  in  the  Central  legislature 
from  the  city  of  Bombay  and  nominated  Dr.  G.  V.  Deshmukh 
and  Nariman  as  its  candidates.  In  October,  Nariman  backed 
out  of  the  elections  at  the  eleventh  hour  on  untenable  grounds 
with  the  obvious  intention  of  ensuring  the  victory  of  his  friend, 
Sir  Cowasji  Jehangir,  a  rival  of  Congress  candidates. 

Munshi,  who  had  earlier  declined  to  stand  as  a  candidate, 
was  now  pressed  by  Sardar  Patel  to  step  into  the  breach.  Both 
then  and  for  a  long  time  later,  Bombay  was  the  strong-hold  of 
the  Congress  and  there  was  every  reason  to  believe  that  both 
Deshmukh  and  Munshi  would  emerge  victorious.  But  Nariman, 
who  was  then  the  President  of  the  Bombay  Provincial  Congress 
Committee,  went  to  the  polling  booths  and  advised  the  voters 
in  certain  wards  to  cast  both  their  votes  to  Deshmukh,  saying 
that  Munshi  had  already  secured  the  winning  votes.  Thanks  to 
these  manoeuvres,  Sir  Cowasji  won  by  securing  18,140  votes 
as  against  Munshi’ s  17,015.  The  defeat  of  the  Congress 
candidate  caused  countrywide  dismay  because  Bombay  was 
long  regarded  as  the  most  incorruptible  fountain  of  Indian 
nationalism.  Nariman  was  not  forgiven  for  his  indefensible  role 
in  this  episode.  He  had  further  queered  the  pitch  for  his 
candidature  to  the  Bombay  Premiership  by  his  strictures  on 
Mahatma  Gandhi’s  leadership  in  a  booklet  published  by  him  in 
1932.  Munshi  declared  that  he  would  not  serve  in  any  ministry 
if  it  was  to  be  led  by  such  a  person.* 

A  section  of  opinion  favoured  the  elevation  of  Munshi  to 
the  Bombay  Premiership.  No  less  a  person  than  Sardar  Patel 
considered  him  the  best  person  for  that  position.  Besides 
Nariman’s  campaign  against  him,  the  Marathi  speaking  Congress 

*  A  brief  reference  has  been  made  to  the  Nariman  episode  in 
Chapter  5. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

legislators  were,  however,  unlikely  to  opt  for  Munshi.  It  was, 
therefore,  decided  that  Khcr  should  lead  the  party  in  the 
Bombay  Legislature.  Munshi  held  his  new  leader  in  great 
esteem  as  a  man  of  high  ideals  and  as  one  who  sincerely 
believed  in  and  practised  Gandhism.  Besides,  Kher  was  a  great 
Sanskrit  scholar,  which  provided  a  further  common  ground  for 
the  two  to  come  closer  together.  While  the  path  was  cleared  for 
Munshi  to  enter  the  ministry,  a  great  surprise  awaited  him  about 
the  portfolio.  He  wanted  both  the  Law  and  Education  portfolios 
to  be  placed  under  his  control,  but  a  was  persuaded  to  take 
charge  of  the  Home  Ministry.  He  cheerfully  accepted  his  new 
responsibility,  although  ministership  involved  a  tremendous 
financial  loss.  The  Congress  ministers  pledged  themselves  to 
draw  a  monthly  salary  of  Rs.  500/-.  The  Mahatma  would  have 
liked  them  to  take  only  Rs.  75/-  a  month.  Munshi  did  not  waste 
even  a  moment  in  assessing  the  financial  implications  of  his  new 
position.  He  rejoiced  that  he  had  as  his  colleagues  in  the 
ministry  a  team  of  talented  men,  all  determined  to  ensure  the 
success  of  Congress  experiment  in  running  the  government. 
Mohamed  Yasin  Nuri,  a  lawyer  from  Ahmedabad  and  an 
independent  legislator,  was  the  Muslim  member  of  the  ministry. 

Consisting  of  like-minded  men,  the  Kher  Ministry 
functioned  as  a  disciplined  team,  taking  decisions  on  the 
principle  of  collective  responsibility.  Munshi  has  described  how 
the  cabinet  worked.  “Before  every  meeting  of  the  Cabinet”,  he 
writes,  “the  Ministers  met  informally,  discussed  matters  on  the 
agenda  and  took  decisions.  When  the  Cabinet  met  later,  with 
the  Governor  in  the  chair,  the  deliberations  were  formal  and 
colourless.  The  Minister  in  charge  carried  on  an  undisturbed 
monologue  and  the  Governor  gave  his  assent  with  a  formal 

Minister  and  Governor 


phrase  or  two,  accepting  the  position  with  an  understanding 
smile”.*  Both  Lord  Brabourne  and  his  suceessor,  Sir  Roger 
Lumley,  were  men  of  understanding  and  were  determined  not  to 
provoke  a  constitutional  crisis  in  their  dealings  with  the  Kher 
Ministry,  although  they  could  have  found  ample  pretexts  for 
doing  so.  They  fully  shared  Whitehall’s  and  New  Delhi’s  anxiety 
to  ensure  the  success  of  the  new  system  of  provincial  self- 
government.  As  Munshi  repeatedly  testified,  the  British  personnel 
of  the  bureaucracy  was  equally  keen  on  not  frustrating  the 

Munshi  was  put  in  charge  of  constitutional  matters 
pertaining  to  the  working  of  the  Government.  He  could  be 
trusted  to  guard  the  rights,  privileges  and  immunities  of  the 
popular  ministry  with  extreme  vigilance.  Within  a  fortnight  of  his 
taking  charge  of  the  Home  portfolio,  he  issued  an  official 
communique,  calling  upon  the  public  to  appreciate  the  significance 
of  the  Congress  coming  into  power.  It  promised  to  protect  the 
civil  liberties  and  fundamental  rights  of  the  people  and  to 
remove  the  hardships  they  had  suffered  under  emergency 
measures.  At  the  same  time,  it  asserted  the  right  of  the 
Government  “to  take  all  steps  to  prevent  the  dissemination  of 
class  hatred  and  ideas  involving  the  use  of  organised  or 
unorganised  violence  in  the  furtherance  of  any  object”.  It  was  a 
clear  warning  to  the  disruptionists,  communal  and  other,  that 
their  efforts  to  bring  the  popular  government  into  disrepute  or  to 
hamper  the  province’s  economic  progress  would  not  be 
tolerated.  Munshi  was  a  firm  believer  in  the  inviolability  of  law 
and  order  and  was  prepared  to  go  to  any  length  to  strengthen 
it.  Did  not  the  great  German,  Goethe,  say:  “I  would  rather 
commit  an  injustice  than  suffer  disorder”. 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  1,  p.  48. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Munshi  and  his  colleagues  were  determined  to  function 
with  untrammelled  freedom  as  if  they  were  a  Dominion  cabinet. 
He  firmly  resisted  the  suggestion  that  the  ministry’s 
correspondence  with  the  Secretary  of  State  for  India  and  the 
Governor-General  should  be  routed  through  the  Governor.  He 
maintained  that  the  Governor  was  only  a  constitutional  head  of 
the  government  so  that  the  real  executive  authority  rested  with 
the  Council  of  Ministers.  He  pointed  out  that  the  Dominions  did 
not  follow  the  procedure  that  was  sought  to  be  prescribed  for 
the  Bombay  ministry.  He  showed  similar  eagerness  to  protect 
the  powers  of  the  ministry  by  frankly  telling  the  Public  Service 
Commission  of  Bombay  that  it  was  wrong  in  claiming  powers 
which  it  was  statutorily  precluded  from  exercising.  The  Public 
Service  Commission,  he  argued  was  created  to  enure  impartial 
recruitment  to  Government  service  and  to  protect  a  “popular 
ministry  from  constant  charges  of  favouritism”.  This  did  not 
mean  that  the  Commission  could  play  with  impunity  the  “role  of 
a  monitor  of  the  Government”.  Constitutionally,  it  was  no  more 
than  a  committee  brought  into  being  by  the  Government  and 
“vested  with  certain  statutory  powers  for  the  attainment  of  a 
particular  object”. 

On  delicate  issues,  involving  the  susceptibilities  of  highly- 
placed  men,  Munshi  could  be  trusted  to  adopt  the  most 
sophisticated  techniques  to  achieve  his  end.  Sir  Kenneth  Kemp, 
a  friend  of  his,  was  the  Advocate-General  of  Bombay.  The 
Kher  ministry  desired  to  have  an  Indian  in  his  place.  Munshi 
told  the  Governor,  Sir  Roger  Lumley,  that  he  had  absolute 
confidence  in  the  impartiality  of  Sir  Kenneth  who  was  required 
to  give  his  legal  advice  to  both  the  Governor  and  the  ministry. 
It  would,  however,  be  difficult  for  him  to  convert  his  cabinet 
colleagues  to  his  point  of  view.  He,  Munshi,  would  be  much 
embarrassed  in  consulting  Sir  Kenneth  on  all  those  occasions 
when  the  Governor  and  the  Ministry  did  not  see  eye  to  eye.  The 

Minister  and  Governor 


Governor  did  not,  however,  see  the  need  for  a  change. 
Thereupon  the  Home  Minister  placed  his  problem  before  Sir 
Kenneth  himself  who,  appreciating  his  predicament,  generously 
tendered  his  resignation  on  December  2,  1937.  Munshi  had  the 
supreme  satisfaction  of  having  his  old  friend  and  comrade, 
Motilal  C.  Setalvad,  installed  in  the  vacant  office. 

Munshi  showed  similar  tact  and  adroitness  in  another 
elicit  matter,  involving  the  release  of  a  young  man,  V.  B.  Gogte, 
who  was  undergoing  life  imprisonment  for  making  an  attempt  on 
the  life  of  Sir  Ernest  Hotson,  Acting  Governor  of  Bombay. 
Gogte  was  a  college  student  when  he  launched  himself  on  such 
a  mad  adventure.  Munshi’s  plea  for  his  release  was  turned 
down  by  the  Governor,  Lord  Brabourne,  who  held  that 
“attempts  at  assassinating  a  Governor  are  a  serious  matter.” 
Munshi  adopted  a  different  modus  operandi  and  wrote  directly 
to  Sir  Ernest,  who  was  his  friend,  appealing  to  him  to  agree  to 
the  release  of  the  young  man.  The  Englishman  rose  to  great 
heights  of  nobility  and  wrote  to  the  Viceroy,  saying  that  he 
would  have  no  objection  to  Gogte’ s  release.  The  Governor’s 
scruples  on  the  issue  now  ceased  to  be  relevant.  Munshi  met 
Gogte  in  jail  and  was  impressed  by  his  intelligence.  Before 
announcing  his  release  to  the  Legislative  Assembly,  the  Home 
Minister  took  him  to  his  residence  privately  and  kept  him  there 
as  his  guest  for  two  days.  To  the  surprise  and  delight  of  the 
members,  he  not  only  announced  the  glad  news  of  Gogte’ s 
release  but  also  told  them  that  the  young  man  could  be  seen 
sitting  in  the  visitors’  gallery  and  listening  to  the  debate.  At 
Munshi’s  request,  the  Chief  Justice,  Sir  John  Beaumont, 
permitted  Gogte  to  appear  for  the  law  examination.  He  later 
became  a  successful  lawyer  and  leader  of  the  Opposition  in  the 
Maharashtra  Legislative  Assembly. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Churchill  denounced  communism  as  the  disease  of  the 
soul.  Munshi  did  not  go  that  far,  but  was  convinced  that  the 
strategy  of  violence  and  subversion  was  wholly  unnecessary  to 
promote  social  justice.  Attempts  were  made  to  draw  him  into 
the  charmed  circle  of  the  devotees  of  Marxism  but  without 
success.*  When  he  took  charge  of  the  Home  portfolio,  he  was 
faced  with  the  two-fold  task  of  securing  the  release  of  detained 
communist  leaders  and  to  prevent  lightning  industrial  strikes. 
When  he  studied  the  voluminous  official  files,  he  found  that  it 
would  not  be  easy  to  secure  the  Governor’s  permission  to  set 
these  men  at  liberty.  Nehru  was  in  a  hurry  and  peremptorily 
asked  Munshi  to  take  immediate  action.  Mahatma  Gandhi,  who 
fully  appreciated  his  predicament,  advised  him  to  deal  with  the 
problem  as  best  he  could.  Munshi  eventually  succeeded  in 
carrying  the  Governor  with  him  and  in  rescinding  the  orders 
passed  on  the  communist  leaders. 

Munshi  rose  to  the  full  height  of  masterful  leadership 
when  dealing  with  the  industrial  unrest  in  the  city  of  Bombay 
which  had  long  been  the  communist  stronghold.  Soon  after  the 
Kher  ministry  took  office,  it  issued  a  statement  declaring  its 
determination  to  maintain  industrial  peace  as  part  of  its 
programme  to  promote  the  many-sided  progress  of  the 
province.  Legislation  would  be  introduced  to  minimise  strikes 
and  lockouts.  The  new  law  would  give  full  protection  to  the 
workers'  interests.  At  the  same  time,  they  should  endeavour  to 
acquire  strength  by  running  their  organisation  “on  genuine  trade 
union  lines”.  Besides  releasing  the  left  wing  labour  leaders,  the 
Government  appointed  an  expert  body  to  study  the  whole 
question  of  wages  and  work  organisation  and  to  make  suitable 
recommendations  to  it.  At  a  private  meeting  with  a  prominent 

*  I  follow  the  Mahatma  by  K.M.  Munshi,  p.94. 

Minister  and  Governor 


communist  leader,  Munshi  earnestly  pleaded  for  allowing  the 
ministry  to  proceed  along  these  lines  peacefully.  He  was, 
however,  told  that  “as  a  revolutionary  body”,  the  Communist 
Party  “must  remain  the  sole  judge  as  to  when  and  how  to 
strike”.  Munshi  accepted  the  challenge.  Effective  police  protection 
to  loyal  workers  considerably  brought  down  the  frequency  of 
lightning  strikes.  Drawing  a  lesson  from  this  episode,  Munshi 
wrote  later  that  no  indulgence  should  be  shown  to  the 
communists  where  the  vital  issue  of  law  and  order  and  the 
stability  of  the  country  was  involved. 

Munshi’s  great  gifts  as  an  able  and  resourceful 
administrator  were  brought  into  full  play  when  quelling  communal 
violence  in  the  Bombay  province.  The  Bombay  city  had  long 
been  the  cockpit  of  communal  feuds.  For  instance,  in  February 
1874,  the  peace  of  the  city  was  undermined  following  violent 
clashes  between  Muslims  and  Parsis.  The  manner  in  which  he 
handled  the  two  serious  Hindu-Muslim  riots  that  occurred 
during  his  Home  Ministership  thoroughly  exposed  the  hollowness 
of  the  propaganda  that  Indians  were  congenitally  incapable  of 
dealing  with  such  situations.  The  first  riot  took  place  on  April 
17,  1938.  When  Munshi  was  informed  about  it  at  8  p.m.  he 
rushed  to  the  affected  areas  and,  after  studying  the  situation 
there,  went  straight  to  the  office  of  the  Commissioner  of  Police 
where  he  issued  firm  orders  suppressing  the  violence.  Curfew 
was  promptly  clamped  down  in  the  troubled  areas,  the 
assembly  of  more  than  five  persons  was  banned,  and  no  man 
was  allowed  to  carry  lethal  weapons.  In  addition,  over  a 
thousand  suspected  men  were  rounded  up  and  held  in  detention 
in  an  improvised  prison.  Orders  sanctioning  these  measures 
were  printed  and  pasted  on  all  important  premises.  Most 
citizens  of  Bombay  woke  up  to  be  told  that  there  had  been 
communal  disturbances  the  previous  night. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

The  second  riot  took  place  on  August  I,  1939,  when  the 
Muslim  League  organised  a  huge  procession  against  the 
introduction  of  prohibition.  The  violence  that  ensued  was 
promptly  suppressed  by  the  police  whose  action  was  later 
justified  by  judicial  verdict.  Munshi  was  prepared  to  go  to  any 
length  to  put  down  disorder.  When  the  Chief  Justice  of  Bombay 
questioned  him  about  the  legality  of  his  orders,  he  replied  that 
his  duty  was  to  preserve  peace.  He  had  great  faith  in  the 
efficiency  of  the  Bombay  police  which  served  him  with 
exemplary  loyalty.  He  made  no  secret  of  his  admiration  for  the 
force.  On  one  occasion  he  said:  “1  have  been  accused  by  many 
Congressmen  of  supporting  the  police  too  strongly.  I  told  them 
that  this  was  only  natural  as  I  am  now  a  policeman”.*  Writing 
in  later  years  about  his  experience  as  the  guardian  of  the  peace 
of  the  province,  Munshi  said  that  the  communal  riots  were 
essentially  a  law  and  order  problem.  Prompt,  impartial  and  stem 
action  by  the  police  could  produce  the  desired  results.  N.P.A. 
Smith,  who  served  under  Munshi  and  later  became  Director  of 
the  Intelligence  Bureau  of  the  Government  of  India,  was  all 
praise  for  the  Congress  Home  Minister.  He  wrote:  “The  British 
eye  is  at  all  times  keen  to  spot  discriminate  treatment.  I  was 
impresed  intead  by  Mr.  Munshi's  determiniation  to  adhere 
rigidly  to  the  completely  impartial,  if  firm,  principles  he  had 
himself  formulated.  My  respect  was  the  greater  in  that  the 
communal  nettle  was  one  from  which  the  British  themselves 
have  always  somewhat  timorously  shrunk.” 

Munshi  was  a  busy  smith  whose  anvil  never  remained 
idle.  He  reorganised  the  Bombay  City  Police,  fought  corruption 
in  the  ranks  of  the  force  and  entrusted  it  with  the  enforcement 
of  prohibition  laws.  Based  on  the  recommendations  of  a 

*  A  Farseeing  Administration  by  K.L.  Panjabi  in  Munshi  at  Seventy-five, 
p.  105. 

Minister  and  Governor 


Committee  presided  over  by  himself,  he  reformed  the  Criminal 
Tribes  Settlements  in  the  Bombay  province,  granting  their 
members  more  freedom  of  movement  and  helping  them  to 
overcome  their  lawless  stendencies.  He  Indianised  the  Royal 
Western  India  Turf  Club  and  made  it  possible  for  the  indian 
horse  and  jocky  to  come  into  their  own.  He  was  responsible  for 
stimulating  the  horse-breeding  industry  in  the  country.  It  was  in 
the  fitness  of  things  that  the  nationalised  Turf  Club  established  an 
annual  event,  the  Munshi  Cup  Race. 

Munshi  was  instrumental  in  putting  through  the  Industrial 
Relations  Act  and  in  the  establishment  of  the  first  Industrial 
Court  in  the  country.  He  was  among  the  first  to  realise  the 
inevitability  of  Bombay's  expansion  and  to  advocate  the 
planning  of  Greater  Bombay.  He  also  played  an  active  part  in 
getting  the  necessary  legislation  passed  to  facilitate  the  return  of 
the  confiscated  lands  to  the  peasants  who  had  lost  them  during 
the  civil  disobedience  movement.  He  was  a  man  of  restless 
disposition,  always  pulsating  with  new  ideas  and  planning  new 
schemes  for  the  public  good.  There  is  no  doubt  that  he  would 
have  accomplished  much  more  if  the  Kher  ministry  had  lasted 
longer  than  for  only  twenty-eight  months. 

In  a  tribute  to  Munshi's  stewardship  of  the  Bombay  Home 
ministry,  W.  W.  Russel,  a  member  of  the  European  group  in  the 
provincial  legislature,  said  that  many  Englishmen,  who  had 
stayed  in  the  province  for  a  longer  period  than  he  were  of  the 
opinion  that  “Bombay  has  never  been  served  by  such  a  strong 
and  capable  Home  Minister  as  Mr.  Munshi  proved  himself  to  be 
from  1937  to  1939”.  He  added  “with  all  sincerity  that  Mr.  Munshi 
has  by  far  the  clearest  brain  of  all  those  that  I  have  met; 
furthermore,  he  understands  the  vital  necessity  of  preserving  law 


K.  M.  Munshi 

and  order  during  these  anxious  days  of  transition  from  foreign 
Government  to  National  Independence”.*  Similar  high  praise 
was  bestowed  on  his  administrative  abilities  by  fair-minded  and 
knowledgeable  Indians. 

After  the  outbreak  of  the  Second  World  War  in 
September  1939  and  the  resignation  of  Congress  ministries  in 
the  following  month,  Munshi,  like  the  rest  of  his  partymen,  had 
the  disconcerting  experience  of  having  to  wander  in  the  political 
wilderness  almost  till  the  advent  of  national  freedom.  His 
admission  to  the  Union  Cabinet  in  February  1950  was  in  the 
fitness  of  things,  but  the  fact  that  he,  a  lawyer,  an  educationist 
and  a  man  of  letters,  should  have  been  called  upon  to  take  over 
the  Food  and  Agriculture  Ministry  surprised  both  him  and 
others.  The  Ministry  had  threatened  to  become  the  graveyard  of 
reputations.  The  state  of  the  country’s  agricultural  economy  was 
dismal  and  food  scarcity  threatened  to  become  chronic.  During 
the  preceding  four  decades,  the  population  had  increased  by  39 
per  cent  with  no  corresponding  rise  in  foodgrain  production. 
There  was  thus  a  notable  decrease  in  the  per  capita  availability 
of  foodgrains  from  internal  sources. 

The  separation  of  Burma  from  the  Indian  subcontinent  in 
1936  had  reduced  internal  supplies  by  1.3  million  tons.  The 
partition  of  the  country  in  1947  further  aggravated  the  problem 
of  food  supplies,  forcing  the  country  to  lean  heavily  on  imports. 
Foodgrain  imports  in  1948  and  1949  were  of  the  order  of  2.8 
million  tons  and  3.7  million  tons,  respectively.  Supplies  of 
cotton,  the  mainstay  of  the  textile  industry,  also  presented 
serious  difficulties.  The  best  cottons  of  undivided  India  were 
grown  in  the  fertile  lands  of  the  Punjab  and  Sind.  On  partition, 
a  considerable  portion  of  this  area  fell  to  the  share  of  Pakistan, 

*  Munshi :  His  Art  and  Work,  Volume  11,  pp.  142,  143. 

Minister  and  Governor 


leaving  the  Indian  Union  with  only  one-fifth  of  undivided  India’s 
irrigated  area  under  cotton.  Munshi  was  thus  faced  with  the 
tremendous  task  of  helping  the  country  to  become  self-sufficient 
in  both  food  and  fibre. 

When  he  took  charge  of  the  Ministry  the  scene  that 
unfolded  itself  before  him  was  disheartening,  but  he  was  a  man 
of  considerable  resourcefulness  and  optimism.  He  saw  that, 
frustrated  by  continual  failures,  the  officials  of  his  Ministry  had 
become  disspirited  and  sought  to  hide  their  defeatist  attitude 
behind  redtapism.  He  told  them  that  in  an  essentially  agricultural 
country  like  India,  blessed  with  a  network  of  large  and  perennial 
rivers  and  with  assured  rainfall  in  large  parts  of  it,  self- 
sufficiency  in  foodgrains  and  in  other  farm  produce  need  not  be 
dismissed  as  a  chimerical  goal.  He  imparted  order  and  cohesion 
to  the  various  departments  of  the  Ministry  which  had  long 
become  accustomed  to  function  like  Plato's  team  of  horses, 
each  department  pulling  in  its  own  direction.  Besides  infecting 
his  officers  with  his  own  enthusiasm,  he  laboured  indefatigably, 
thus  inspiring  them  with  a  sense  of  mission.  He  brought 
considerable  realism  to  bear  on  grappling  with  the  country's 
agrarian  problems.  The  system  of  controls  had  become  an 
unmitigated  curse.  It  stimulated  a  continual  rise  in  foodgrain 
prices,  encouraged  the  States  to  exaggerate  their  deficits  and  to 
minimise  their  surpluses,  forced  the  farmers  to  divert  their  lands 
to  the  production  of  cash  crops,  and  put  a  premium  on 
hoarding,  black-marketing  and  corruption.  It,  in  fact,  encouraged 
the  psychology  of  scarcity  among  the  people.  In  1947-48, 
Munshi  had  supported  Mahatma  Gandhi  in  his  pea  for  lifting 
controls,  but  he  was  a  pragmatist.  He  knew,  as  he  told  the 
Prime  Minister  in  his  detailed  letter  of  March  14,  1952, 
explaining  his  views  on  the  need  for  a  new  national  agricultural 
policy,  that  controls  were  a  great  disincentive  to  higher 
production.  But  in  the  prevailing  situation  it  would  have  been 


K.  M.  Munshi 

suicidal  to  do  away  with  them  before  making  plans  for  higher 
output.  Unfavourable  rains  for  two  consecutive  seasons  forced 
him  to  be  careful  on  the  question  of  controls. 

He  was,  however,  firmly  opposed  to  the  Planning 
Commission’s  suggestion  for  tightening  the  food  controls  by 
introducing  an  integrated  price  structure.  He  wanted  a  free  flow 
of  marketable  surplus  of  foodgrains  from  the  rural  to  the  urban 
areas.  The  Government  had  taken  the  responsibility  of  feeding 
143  million  people  in  towns  and  cities  through  ration  shops  and 
he  did  not  want  this  responsibility  to  be  enlarged.  The  Minister 
was  all  the  time  seeking  ways  and  means  of  overcoming  the 
tyranny  of  controls.  He  began  by  decontrolling  gram,  which  was 
produced  in  surplus  only  by  the  Punjab,  Uttar  Pradesh,  Madhya 
Pradesh  and  Rajasthan.  In  1950,  it  was  being  sold  at  about  Rs. 
9  to  Rs.  11  per  maund  in  the  Punjab  and  Rajasthan,  but  was 
available  in  Bombay  at  the  high  price  of  Rs.  30  and  in  Madras 
at  Rs.  60.  In  August  of  that  year  gram  was  decontrolled  by 
fixing  a  ceiling  price  of  Rs.  12  per  maund  in  the  surplus  areas 
and  Rs.  16  in  the  others.  A  similar  bold  step  was  taken  about 
sugar  by  introducing  a  two-price  system.  Some  ten  lakh  tons  of 
sugar  were  procured  from  the  sugar  mills  and  distributed  among 
the  ration  shops  in  the  country  to  be  sold  at  controlled  prices. 
The  industry  was  free  to  sell  the  remaining  output  in  free  market 
at  any  price.  The  policy  of  selective  control  stimulated 
sugar  production  which  increased  from  9.8  lakh  tons 
in  1949  to  11.2  lakh  tons  in  1950,  the  figure  for  1951  being  15 
lakh  tons. 

Munshi,  however,  gave  concentrated  attention  to  the 
question  of  attaining  a  self-reliant  agricultural  economy  in  as 
short  a  period  as  possible.  The  Prime  Minister  had  said  in  1949 
that  the  goal  of  self-sufficiency  in  food  should  be  reached  by  the 
end  of  1951.  It  was  undoubtedly  an  over-ambitious  target,  but 

Minister  and  Governor 


efforts  on  a  war  footing  should  be  made  to  attain  it.  Towards 
this  end,  Munshi  convened  a  conference  of  the  Chief  Ministers 
of  all  the  States  and  appealed  to  them  to  give  top  priority  to 
food  production.  He  told  them  that  the  Grow  More  Food 
campaign  started  during  the  Second  World  War  had  yielded  no 
results  for  lack  of  the  necessary  drive.  He  reorganised  the 
Indian  Council  of  Agricultural  Research  and  gave  a  new 
constitution  to  it,  making  it  a  “super-university  of  research  and 
extension”.  He  told  the  research  officers  of  this  institution  that  in 
a  period  of  grave  food  crisis  extension  work  was  far  more 
important  than  fundamental  research. 

Munshi  initiated  far-reaching  projects  of  Land 
Transformation — a  term  coined  by  himself.  He  defined  this  term 
in  August  1950  as  “the  utilization  of  land  on  a  rational  basis  so 
that  the  available  resources  of  land,  water  and  livestock  are 
developed  to  their  maximum  potential  and  the  population 
assured  of  a  decent  standard  of  living”.  While  in  Rome,  Munshi 
discussed  with  agricultural  experts  the  feasibility  of  setting  up  a 
Land  Development  Corporation  in  India.  The  aim  of  such  a 
body,  as  it  functioned  in  the  Netherlands,  for  example,  was  to 
acquire,  reclaim  and  cultivate  land;  to  take  land  on  hire  for 
cultivation;  to  settle  people  on  the  reclaimed  land;  to  develop 
irrigation;  to  manufacture  tractors  or  to  provide  tractor  service; 
to  sink- wells  and  tube- wells;  to  manufacture  and  improve 
pumps;  to  import  fertilisers  and  agricultural  equipment;  and  to 
adopt  a  progressive  forest  policy.*  The  project  was  to  be 
started  with  the  assistance  of  the  International  Bank,  but  nothing 
came  out  of  it  due  to  Munshi’s  premature  withdrawal  from  the 

*  Munshi’s  letter  of  March  14,  1952,  to  the  Prime  Minister  published 
in  book  form  with  the  title  Problems  of  Food  and  Agriculture  with 
a  preface  dated  May  5,  1973,  by  Mrs.  Lilavati  Munshi,  Bharatiya  Vidya 
Bhavan,  1973,  p.  55. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Union  Ministry.  He  also  encouraged  the  formation  of  a  Land 
Army  or  Bhoomi  Sena  which  was  inaugurated  by  the  President 
of  India,  Dr.  Rajendra  Prasad.  Shramdan  or  free  gift  of  manual 
labour  for  public  causes  became  the  offspring  of  this  movement 
and  soon  attained  much  popularity. 

Development  of  animal  husbandry  was  given  its  rightful 
place  in  Munshi’ s  programme  of  integrated  agricultural 
production.  To  Mahatma  Gandhi  the  cow  was  the  “poem  of 
pity”;  to  his  crusading  follower  it  was  “mother  cow”,  while  the 
buffalo  was  an  “aunt”!  His  solicitude  for  the  bullock  was  a 
equally  great.  The  animal  carried  on  “its  patient  shoulders  the 
heavy  burden  of  India’s  agriculture”.  He  set  up  a  Board  to 
reorganise  the  Gowshalas,  numbering  some  3,000,  and 
introduced  a  village-level  scheme  to  eliminate  useless  animals 
and  to  encourage  the  breeding  of  improved  cattle  for  milk  and 
draught  purposes.  Nothing  escaped  his  vigilant  eye.  Under  his 
inspiration,  the  Union  Government  sanctioned  large  sums  of 
money  for  the  development  of  fisheries. 

Munshi ’s  heart  bled  at  the  sight  of  more  and  more  trees 
falling  to  the  axe  of  the  land-hungry  man.  “Wherever  I  go”  he 
told  the  Prime  Minister  in  his  letter  of  March  14,  1952,  “I  find 
that  trees  are  being  cut  down  thoughtlessly  by  the  villagers  and 
the  process  practically  connived  at  by  the  authorities”.  He 
wished  “ecological  studies  and  the  relation  of  our  national 
existence  to  our  land,  water,  rivers  and  forests  is  more  closely 
studied”.  He  popularised  tree-planting  and  repeatedly  called 
upon  his  countrymen  to  become  tree-minded,  reminding  them 
that  their  venerable  civilization  was  bom  in  the  mighty  forests  of 
ancient  India.  Vana  Mahotsava  or  tree  planting  has  now 
become  an  annual  festival  in  the  country.  He  formulated  a  new 
national  forest  policy  and  raised  the  Forest  Research  Institute  to 
international  status  by  intensifying  and  enlarging  its  activities.  He 

Minister  and  Governor 


called  upon  the  farming  community  to  launch  a  vigorous  drive 
against  soil  erosion  and  drew  up  a  comprehensive  scheme  for 
arresting  the  spread  of  the  Rajasthan  desert. 

The  Food  Minister  exhorted  his  countrymen  not  to  be 
enslaved  by  their  food  habits,  especially  in  a  period  of  scarcity. 
To  wean  them  from  depending  heavily  on  the  cereals,  he  tried 
to  popularise  the  consumption  of  subsidiary  foods.  In  this  great 
undertaking,  he  was  ably  assisted  by  his  wife,  Mrs.  Lilavati. 
Both  suggested  that  one  day  in  the  week  should  be  observed 
as  a  non-cereal  day.  Thanks  to  Mrs.  Munshi’s  indefatigable 
labours,  the  movement  caught  on.  It  became  popular,  following 
the  establishment  of  the  Annapurna  cafetaria  under  the  auspices 
of  the  All-India  Women’s  Food  Council,  which  was  specially 
set  up  through  Mrs.  Munshi’s  initiative.  The  first  such 
non-cereal  restaurant  was  established  in  the  country’s  capital.  It 
became  popular  in  Bombay  and  Pune. 

Munshi  held  charge  of  the  Union  Ministry  of  Food  and 
Agriculture  for  a  brief  period  from  February  1950  to  May  1952 
and  yet  the  impact  of  his  leadership  was  felt  by  all  its 
departments.  He  needed  longer  time  to  ensure  the  success  of 
his  various  schemes.  It  was  not  a  simple  task  to  galvanise  five 
million  big  and  small  farmers  spread  all  over  a  country  of  India’s 
continental  size.  Since  agriculture  is  a  State  subject,  he  could 
only,  to  borrow  the  famous  words  of  Walter  Bagehot  used  in 
another  context,  advise,  encourage  and  warn  the  State 
Governments  on  agrarian  problems.  Vana  Mahotsava  provides 
an  example  of  how  many  of  his  original  ideas  have  caught  the 
imagination  of  the  people,  but  without  corresponding  purposeful 
action.  The  destruction  of  trees  and  forests  goes  on  unabated. 
Along  with  it  there  is  an  alarming  depletion  of  the  country’s 
precious  wild  life,  for  the  protection  of  which  Munshi  pleaded 
with  such  eloquence  and  pertinacity. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Although  during  his  tenure  as  Union  Minister  he  received 
more  brickbats  than  bouquets,  Munshi  had  the  satisfaction  of 
knowing  that  many  of  the  moves  he  had  made  had  become  an 
integral  part  of  the  national  agricultural  policy.  Dr.  Rajendra 
Prasad,  who  had  held  the  food  portfolio  himself,  could  make  a 
correct  appraisal  of  Munshi’s  achievements.  In  a  rare  tribute  to 
the  retiring  Minister,  the  President  said  thus  on  February  14, 
1952:  “I  know  with  what  anxieties  you  had  to  work  these  last 
twelve  months,  often  in  the  face  of  unhelpful  criticism.  It  was  in 
no  small  measure  due  to  your  initiative  and  drive  that  the 
tragedy  of  Bengal  was  not  re-enacted  in  Bihar  last  year  and  in 
Gujarat  this  year.  The  public  will  no  doubt  appreciate  your 
efforts  when  it  becomes  aware  of  what  has  been  accomplished, 
but  I  feel  that  I  ought  to  express  my  own  thanks  to  you  and 
through  you  to  all  those  who  have  co-operated  with  you  in 
bringing  about  this  improvement”.  It  was  Munshi’s  measures 
which  paved  the  way  for  the  “green  revolution”  to  sweep  the 
Indian  agricultural  economy  in  later  years,  making  it  possible  for 
this  country  to  attain  self-sufficiency  in  food. 

In  the  first  week  of  May  1952,  the  Prime  Minister  called 
Munshi  and  offered  him  the  Governorship  of  Uttar  Pradesh,  the 
largest  State  in  the  country.  Munshi  was  somewhat  taken  aback 
at  the  offer.  In  September  of  the  previous  year,  he  had  decided 
to  shed  his  ministerial  responsibilities  on  a  convenient  date  in 
order  to  return  to  his  first  love,  law  and  literature.  Both.  Dr. 
Rajendra  Prasad  and  Mrs.  Lilavati  Munshi  were  strongly  of  the 
opinion  that  he  should  agree  to  shoulder  the  gubernatorial 
responsibilities.  His  esteemed  friend,  Sir  N.  Gopalaswami 
Ayyanger,  was,  however,  of  a  different  view.  He  reminded 
Munshi  that  Pandit  Gobind  Ballabh  Pant,  a  man  with  intimidating 
personality,  was  the  Chief  Minister  of  Uttar  Pradesh  and 
apprehended  serious  differences  between  the  two.  Munshi  did 

Minister  and  Governor 


not  share  this  fear  and  assured  his  friend  that  he  and  Pant  could 
get  on  very  well. 

What  perhaps  decided  Munshi  to  accept  the  premier's 
offer  was  his  emotional  attachment  to  Uttar  Pradesh.  It  was  not 
merely  the  largest  State  in  the  country,  but’  was  redolent  of 
historical  memories.  Munshi  was  profoundly  versed  in  ancient 
India’s  literary  and  cultural  achievements,  besides  being  a 
creative  writer  par  excellence.  Uttar  Pradesh,  which  had  made 
a  rich  contribution  to  the  country’s  ancient  and  medieval 
civilization,  had  great  attraction  for  him.  Broadcasting  from  the 
Lucknow  Station  of  All-India  Radio  on  June  4,  1952,  he 
expressed  his  happiness  to  be  in  the  State.  He  said:  “Though 
not  born  in  Uttar  Pradesh,  I  have  lived  here,  apart  from 
temporary  visits,  in  imagination,  study  and  sentiment  for  a  very 
long  time”.  After  recalling  the  importance  and  the  splendour  of 
places  like  Lucknow,  Agra  and  ancient  Kannauj,  he  spoke 
ecstatically  about  those  massive  and  towering  mountains,  the 
Himalayas.  “Here  you  have”,  he  said,  “the  Himalayas  of  the 
‘Divine  Soul’,  the  Lord  of  the  Mountains,  the  source  of  all  the 
security,  plenty  and  beauty  in  India.  A  slice  of  it  was  ancient 
Aryavarta,  with  Naimisharanya,  from  where  sprang  the  streams 
of  truth  and  beauty  which  have  helped  our  race  to  a  higher  life 
of  the  Spirit  at  its  heart”.* 

Munshi  did  not  anticipate  any  conflict  with  the 
U.P  Council  of  Ministers.  He  had  known  Pant  from  1937  when 
the  Congress  undertook  the  responsibilities  of  government  in 
most  of  the  provinces.  Pant’s  successor,  Dr.  Sampurnanand, 
was  also  well-known  to  him.  Again,  a  number  of  Ministers  were 

*Sparks  from  a  Governor's  Anvil  by  Dr.  K.  M.  Munshi,  Vol.  I, 
Information  Directorate,  Uttar  Pradesh,  Lucknow,  July  1956,  pp.  2,  3. 

I4.473  M.  of  I  &  B/ND/81. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

acquainted  with  him.  Munshi  thus  embarked  upon  his  new  office 
with  the  determination  to  make  it  eventful.  His  views  on  the 
powers  of  Governor  were  well-known.  As  we  saw  in  an  earlier 
chapter,  he  was  among  the  most  active  participants  in  the 
deliberations  of  the  Constituent  Assembly  and  had  been  of  great 
help  to  Sardar  Patel  in  sponsoring  the  Bill  on  the  States 
constitution.  The  constitution-makers  had  no  hesitation  in 
adopting  the  Government  of  India  Act,  1935,  as  the  model  for 
the  State's  constitution.  The  crucial  issue  was,  however,  the 
scope  of  the  Governor’s  powers.  None,  of  course,  wanted  to 
arm  that  functionary  with  a  plenitude  of  discretionary 
powers  and  special  responsibilities  and  with  the  right  to  exercise 
his  individual  judgment.  There  was  a  consensus  that  the 
Governor  of  a  State  in  free  India  should  essentially  be  a 
constitutional  head. 

Some  members,  however,  went  to  the  extreme  of 
suggesting  that  the  Governor  should  be  no  more  than  an 
ornamental  head  instead  of  being  the  guardian  of  good  and 
democratic  government  in  his  State.  Speaking  in  the  Constituent 
Assembly  on  May  23, 1949,  Sir  Alladi  Krishnaswami  Ayyar 
maintained  that,  with  the  introduction  of  responsible  government 
in  the  States,  the  role  of  the  Governor  would  be  strictly 
constitutional.  He,  however,  suggested  that  only  men  of 
“undoubted  ability”  should  be  selected.  “The  central  fact  to  be 
remembered”,  he  said,  “is  that  the  Governor  is  to  be  a 
constitutional  head,  a  sagacious  counsellor  and  adviser  to  the 
Ministry,  one  who  can  throw  oil  over  troubled  waters”.* 
Dr.  Ambedkar  did  not  mince  words  when  he  said:  “The  position 
of  the  Governor  is  exactly  the  same  as  the  position  of  the 
President”.  He  left  none  in  doubt  about  the  implication  of  this 

* Constituent  Assembly  Debates:Official  Report,  Volume  8, 
pp.  431-32. 

Minister  and  Governor 


dictum.  He  said  :  “The  Governor  under  the  Constitution  has  no 
functions  which  he  can  discharge  by  himself,  no  functions  at  all”. 

There  was,  however,  an  influential  section  of  opinion, 
which  felt  the  need  for  endowing  the  Governor  with  the  ultimate 
authority  as  a  safeguard  against  misrule.  Sardar,  Patel  recalled 
that  many  Prime  Ministers  of  Provinces  and  others  with  much 
experience  with  the  constitution,  considered  it  dangerous  not  to 
provide  for  an  emergency.  Sir  Benegal  Narsinga  Rau,  an 
eminent  jurist,  observed  that  for  the  most  part,  the  Governor 
would  act  on  advice,  but  there  were  certain  functions  where 
even  a  responsible  head  had  to  exercise  his  discretion,  e.g.  the 
choice  of  the  Prime  (now  Chief)  Minister,  the  dissolution  of  the 
legislature  and  so  on.  “In  the  present  circumstances”,  he  wrote, 
“similar  discretion  may  have  to  be  vested  in  the  Governor  in  the 
matter  of  the  protection  of  the  minorities  and  maintenance  of 
law  and  order”*. 

Munshi  held  strong  views  on  the  subject.  He  feared  that 
unfettered  cabinet  government  was  apt  to  degenerate  into 
executive  despotism.  He  was  anxious  that  responsible  government 
should  not  be  divorced  from  good  government  and  wanted  the 
Governor  to  be  entrusted  with  the  duty  of  ensuring  such  a 
dispensation.  He  fought  hard  in  the  Constituent  Assembly  for 
clothing  the  Governor  with  effective  powers  and  at  one  stage 
sponsored  an  amendment  which  practically  reproduced  Section 
93  of  the  Act  of  1935.  This  Section  empowered  the  Governor 
to  issue  proclamations  in  the  event  of  a  breakdown  of  the 
constitution.  Long  after  he  laid  down  the  office  of  Governor  and 
after  carefully  watching  the  change  in  the  calibre  and  the  style 
of  functioning  of  the  Governors,  he  found  that  his  conviction 

*  Indian  Constitution  in  the  Making  by  Sir  Bengal  Narsinga  Rau, 
Allied  Publishers,  1963,  p.  170. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

about  the  need  for  looking  upon  the  Governor  as  the  guardian 
of  responsible  and  efficient  government  was  sound.  “The 
President  and  the  Governors”,  he  wrote,  provide  a  network  of 
unified  power  for  the  whole  country.  It  is  of  the  highest 
importance,  therefore,  to  maintain  it.  The  Governor  is  the  agent 
of  the  President  and,  qua  the  administration  of  the  State,  the 
constitutional  head  with  certain  express  powers”#  .  As  in  the 
case  of  the  President,  the  Constitution  defines  the  powers  of  the 
Governor  at  length.  It  was  Munshi’s  considered  opinion  that  in 
a  written  constitution  if  the  text  was  explicit  it  was  conclusive 
and  could  not  lend  itself  to  any  wishful  interpretation. 

Munshi  was  the  Governor  of  Uttar  Pradesh  from  1952  to 
1957.  During  that  period  he  had  no  occasion  to  test  his  beliefs 
about  that  office.  There  was  complete  rapport  between  him  and 
his  Council  of  Ministers.  The  ministers  respect  him  for  his 
emdition  and  experience  as  an  administrator  and  were  impressed 
by  his  profound  knowledge  of  constitutional  law  and  legal 
principles.  A  man  of  his  versatility  and  wide  ranging  vision  was 
an  undoubted  asset  to  them.  Munshi  in  his  turn  fully  recognised 
the  responsibilities  of  his  Council  of  Ministers.  Pant,  the  Chief 
Minister,  was  a  man  of  towering  personality,  with  considerable 
administrative  experience,  besides  being  a  great  stabilising  force 
in  his  State.  His  successor,  Dr.  Sampumanand,  was  not  only  a 
scholar  but  also  a  politician  of  considerable  weight  and 
shrewdness.  The  other  members  of  the  Council  of  Ministers 
were  also  men  of  ability  They  were  tried  patriots  and  were 
eager  to  serve  the  State  with  diligence  and  in  the  lofty  spirit  of 
self-abnegation.  Munshi  toured  the  State  extensively,  came  into 
contact  with  the  various  elements  of  the  population,  and  gained 
a  first-hand  knowledge  of  their  wants  and  wishes.  He  drew  up 
detaile  notes  on  the  basis  of  the  impressions  gathered  by  him 

# Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  1,  p.  270. 

Minister  and  Governor 


and  sent  them  to  the  ministers  concerned.  His  good  offices  in 
bringing  the  people  closer  to  the  cabinet  through  this  medium 
were  appreciated.  “He  performed”,  say  the  Editors  of  the 
Volumes  on  Munshi,  “to  the  full  the  political  function  to  be  the 
constitutional  head  of  the  government.  He  maintained  the 
dignity,  the  stability  and  the  collective  responsibility  of  the 
Government  and  exercised  substantial  and  helpful  influence”*. 

As  Chancellor,  Munshi  gave  a  good  deal  of  his  time  and 
attention  to  the  affairs  of  the  universities  in  the  State  which  were 
seven  in  number  in  his  time.  They  were  Allahabad  university,. 
Banaras  Hindu  University,  Aligarh  Muslim  University,  Lucknow 
University,  Agra  University,  Roorkee  University  and  Gorakhpur 
University,  the  last-named  university  coming  into  existence  in 
1957.  Munshi  liked  this  kind  of  work  and  was  conversant  with 
it  since  his  election  as  Fellow  of  Bombay  University  as  far  back 
as  1926.  He  had  in  fact  made  a  penetrating  study  of  the  history 
of  education  in  India  and  had  read  with  deep  interest  the  abiding 
contribution  made  by  such  celebrated  seats  of  learning  as 
Takshasila,  Nalanda,  Vallal  hi,  Vikramasila  and  Kanchi  to  the 
extension  of  human  kno  fledge.  He  admired  the  manner  in 
which  mind  and  matter  had  achieved  a  complete  synthesis  in 
ancient  Indian  leai  ling.  It  was,  of  course,  impossible  to 
resurrect  the  past  be  i  he  thought  that  there  was  much  scope  for 
reforming  the  curre  it  system  of  higher  education.  He  was 
convinced  that,  as  Chancellor,  he  was  under  no  constitutional 
obligation  to  carry  his  Council  of  Ministers  with  him  in  whatever 
reforms  he  proposed  to  introduce  in  the  realm  of  higher 
education  in  the  State.  His  stand,  explained  in  a  detailed  note, 
was  supported  by  the  Chief  Minister,  Pandit  Pant. 

Munshi  strove  hard  to  transform  the  universities  within  his 
jurisdiction  into  temples  of  learning.  He  also  wanted  them  to  be 

*  Munshi:  His  Art  and  Work,  volume  II,  pp. 339-40. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

the  top  storey  of  the  educational  structure  as  well  as  the  seed¬ 
beds  of  ability,  continually  turning  out  a  body  of  talented  young 
men  and  young  women  to  take  up  the  country’s  leadership. 
Besides  teaching  a  wide  variety  of  modem  skills,  they  should 
stimulate  the  powers  of  the  mind  and  should  become  the 
“sanctuaries  of  the  inner  life  of  the  nation”.  In  short,  he  wanted 
Indian  universities  to  be  true  to  the  ideals  of  the  past  and,  as 
institutions  of  higher  learning,  seek  to  transcend  time  and 
geography.  He  naturally  felt  that  they  should  be  untrammelled  in 
regulating  their  own  affairs  in  order  to  fulfil  this  exalted  mission. 
Indeed,  university  autonomy  was  an  article  of  faith  with  him. 
Addressing  the  Allahabad  University  Staff  Club  on  August  6, 
1952,  he  said:  “You  can  take  it  from  me  that  am  a  staunch 
believer  in  the  autonomy  of  a  university.  In  the  field  of  learning, 
men  should  be  free  to  pursue  their  own  line  of  thought,  or  to 
express  their  own  opinions,  so  long  as  they  are  on  an  academic 
level.  This  is  the  essence  of  democracy,  and  in  so  far  as  it  lies 
in  me,  I  have  always  fought  for,  and  will  fight  for  autonomy  of 
the  universities”.* 

At  the  same  time,  Munshi  expected  the  teachers  to  attain 
the  highest  proficiency  in  their  profession  and  to  dedicate 
themselves  to  the  task  of  preparing  their  pupils  for  life  and 
livelihood.  “No  teacher”,  declared  the  University  Education 
Commission,  presided  over  by  Dr.  S.  Radhakrishnan  “who  is 
not  a  master  of  the  field,  who  is  not  in  touch  with  the  latest 
developments  in  his  subject. and  who  does  not  bring  to  bear 
upon  his  duties  a  free  and  untrammelled  mind  will  ever  succeed 
in  inspiring  youth  with  that  love  of  truth  which  is  the  principal 
object  of  higher  education”/  Munshi  entirely  agreed  with  this 

*  Sparks  from  a  Governor's  Anvil  by  Dr.  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume 
I,  p.  27. 

#The  Report  of  the  University  Education  Commission — December 
1948 — August  1949,  Volume  1,  p.  69. 

Minister  and  Governor 


point  of  view.  He  was  equally  insistent  that  students  seeking 
higher  education  must  realise  their  responsibilities  and  make  a 
disciplined  and  diligent  endeavour  to  study  and  to  enlarge  their 
minds  as  a  necessary  preparation  for  assuming  the  country’s 
leadership.  Addressing  the  Allahabad  Branch  of  the  Chancellor’s 
Inter-University  Camp  on  March  4,  1955,  he  deplored 
“indiscipline  and  vulgarity”  among  section  of  the  students  and 
posed  several  questions  to  the  erring  youngmen.  He  said:  “I  ask 
you,  friends,  who  going  to  be  the  leaders  of  tomorrow,  are  we 
going  to  destroy  our  future  by  an  exhibition  of  such  attempted 
coercion?  And  think  for  a  moment:  Why  does  this  kind  of 
demonstration  make  the  noise  that  it  does?”  He  asked  the 
students  to  remember  that  India  had  a  role  to  play  more 
important  than  that  of  “an  ordinary  democratic  State.  It  is 
charged  by  history  with  the  mission  to  bring  a  happier  world 
into  existence  parks  where  war  will  be  unknown,  where  hatred 
will  have  disappeared”.* 

Munshi  devised  a  new  method  in  an  effort  to  galvanise 
university  life  in  the  State  and  to  provide  a  cure  to  some  of  the 
ills  in  the  system  of  higher  education.  He  held  periodical 
conferences  with  the  Vice  Chancellors  and  Deans  of  the 
Universities,  not  merely  to  consider  how  best  student  turbulence 
could  be  controlled,  but  also  to  provide  a  platform  for  them  to 
discuss  their  common  problems,  to  adopt  measures  for  avoiding 
duplication  of  expensive  specialised  studies,  and  to  deliberate 
on  improving  the  academic  standards  and  the  welfare  of 
teachers  and  students.  He  also  held  at  regular  intervals  the 
Chancellor’s  Camp.  Teachers  and  students  were  invited  to  stay 
in  the  Government  House  as  his  guests  for  a  couple  of  weeks 
at  a  time.  The  aim  of  the  Camp  was  to  promote  the  goal  of 

*  Sparks  from  a  Governor's  Anvil  by  Dr.  K.M.  Munshi,  Volume  II,  pp. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

making  the  universities  true  institutions  of  higher  learning  and 
culture,  to  foster  a  genuine  pride  in  the  country’s  heritage,  and 
to  revive  the  ancient  ashram  principle  of  creating  a  feeling  of 
oneness  among  the  teachers  and  the  taught.  Besides  conducting 
lectures  and  seminars  on  various  subjects,  prayers  and  recitation 
of  the  Bhagvad  Gita,  the  Song  Celestial,  were  arranged.  The 
experiment  proved  popular  and  it  certainly  helped  to  curb 
student  violence.  Munshi’s  term  of  office  as  Governor  was  thus 
eventful.  He  has  won  a  well-deserved  place  in  the  galaxy  of 
outstanding  Governors  that  have  inhabited  the  Government 
Houses,  now  Raj  Bhavans,  in  the  country  since  independence. 


Education  and 
National  Language 

^radesh,  Munshi  was  able  to  revitalise  them  because  he 
was  not  only  an  eminent  intellectual  and  a  man  of  versatile 
talents,  but  also  an  experienced  educationist.  Since  he  became 
a  member  of  the  Senate  of  Bombay  University,  one  of  the  three 
oldest  British-modelled  universities  in  India,  in  January  1926,  he 
took  sustained  interest  in  higher  education.  He  was  not  a  policy¬ 
maker  but  he  missed  no  opportunity  of  telling  both  the 
Government  and  the  people  of  this  country  that  the  prevailing 
system  of  education  was  wholly  unsuited  to  Indian  requirements. 
Its  over-emphasis  on  proficiency  in  English  and  its  glorification 
of  Western  heroes  and  Western  culture  were  a  hindrance  to  the 
growth  of  pride  among  young  Indians  in  their  own  heritage. 
Besides,  being  narrowly  based,  it  merely  created  a  small  clan  of 
elite,  excluding  the  bulk  of  the  population  from  the  benefits  of 
higher  education.  It  also  dug  a  gulf  between  the  English- 
educated  class  and  the  rest. 

The  shortcomings  of  the  university  system  were  obvious, 
but  Munshi  did  not  want  that  the  opportunities  for  acquiring 
higher  education  should  be  confined  to  a  few.  He  wanted  more 
and  more  universities  to  be  opened  in  different  parts  of  the 
country.  Such  a  project  had  long  been  under  the  consideration 
of  the  Government  of  India.  As  far  back  as  1913,  it  expressed 


K.  M.  Munshi 

the  view  that  every  important  province  in  the  country  should 
have  a  university  of  its  own.  There  were  at  the  time  only  five 
universities  in  the  whole  of  British  India.  It  also  encouraged  the 
creation  of  “new  local  teaching  and  residential  universities  within 
each  of  the  province  in  harmony  with  the  best  modem  opinion 
as  to  the  right  road  to  educational  efficiency”.  In  the  polyglot 
Bombay  province  there  was  a  persistent  demand  by  the 
Marathi-speaking  educationists  and  others  that  each  of  its 
regional  units  must  have  a  university  of  its  own.  In  1917,  Sir 
Narayan  Chandavarkar,  a  Judge  of  the  Bombay  High  Court, 
asked  for  a  separate  university  for  Maharashtra  in  his  presidential 
address  to  the  Bombay  Presidency  Educational  Conference. 

Munshi  was  elected  to  the  Syndicate  of  Bombay  University 
in  August  1926  and  was  invited  by  the  Vice  Chancellor,  Sir 
Chimanlal  Setalvad,  to  take  active  interest  in  its  various 
activities.  Sir  Leslie  Wilson,  Governor  of  Bombay,  was  well- 
disposed  towards  the  Maharashtrians  and  asked  Dr.  M.  R. 
Jayakar,  one  of  their  leading  men,  how  best  he  could  help  them 
before  his  retirement.  Jayakar,  who  had  long  been  cmsading  for 
a  separate  university  to  be  located  at  Poona,  suggested  that  his 
much-cherished  wish  should  be  fulfilled.  He  explained  that 
Bombay  University  could  not  effectively  “attend  to  the 
educational  problems  peculiar  to  such  distant  and  dissimilar 
areas  as  Sind,  Gujarat,  Maharashtra,  Karnataka  and  Bombay. 
The  result  was  that  the  educational  interests  of  these  outlying 
parts  of  the  Presidency  suffered  grievously”.  The  “overweighted” 
University  of  Bombay  needed  to  be  cut  to  size  “at  whatever 
cost”.  Munshi  held  similar  views  and  strongly  supported  the 
establishment  of  a  separate  university  at  Poona.  His  plea  for 
setting  up  a  similar  institution  of  higher  learning  at  Ahmedabad 
was  heartily  endorsed  by  the  Marathi-speaking  educationists. 

Education  and  National  Language 


A  Committee  under  the  chairmanship  of  Sir  Chimanlal 
Setalvad  was  appointed  by  the  Government  of  Bombay  to 
make  recommendations  on  the  question  of  university  reform.  It 
was  also  asked  to  “investigate  the  relations  between  the 
university  and  its  affiliated  colleges  both  in  Bombay  city  and  in 
the  mofussil,  and  to  consider  whether  it  is  desirable  and  feasible 
to  institute  other  universities  at  mofussil  centres”.  The  expert 
body  came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  city  of  Bombay  had  a 
“multiplicity  of  interests”,  its  major  preoccupation  being  commerce 
and  industry.  It  could  not,  therefore,  serve  as  an  ideal  guardian 
of  the  educational  and  cultural  needs  of  the  outlying  districts  of 
the  Province.  “A  local  university,  it  said,  “would  be  inspired  by, 
and  would  foster  enthusiastic  interest  in  local  conditions  of  life 
and  thought,  past  and  present”.  The  Bombay  Government  took 
no  action  on  the  Setalvad  Committee’s  recommendations,  but 
the  agitation  for  separate  universities  to  be  located  at  Poona, 
Ahmedabad  and  Dharwad  continued. 

Munshi  was  not  much  discouraged  by  the  Government’s 
inaction.  He  knew  the  Baroda  State  well  since  he  had  been  a 
student  in  its  local  college.  The  ruler,  Maharaja  Sayajirao 
Gaekwad,  was  an  enlightened  and  forward-looking  man  who 
was  determined  to  make  his  administration  at  least  as  enlightened 
as  its  British  Indian  counterpart.  On  behalf  of  the  Gujarat 
University  Samiti,  Munshi  met  the  Maharaja  and  explained  to 
him  his  project.  Soon  after,  a  Commission  under  the  Chairmanship 
of  Professor  Widgery  was  appointed  to  report  on  the  feasibility 
of  establishing  such  an  institution  in  the  State.  Munshi  was  a 
member  of  the  expert  body  which  met  at  Baroda  in  October 
1926.  From  what  he  heard  and  saw  there,  it  became  clear  to 
him  that  Baroda  could  not  at  that  time  become  an  ideal  venue 
for  a  university  of  his  conception.  The  Commission  never 
functioned  vigorously.  Before  leaving  the  Baroda  State  Service, 
the  Chairman,  drew  up  his  own  report  without  consulting  the 


K.  M.  Munshi 

members  of  the  Commission.  Munshi  submitted  separate 
proposals  to  the  State  Government  which  took  no  action  on 
either  of  them.  Baroda  received  its  own  university  in  1949,  the 
year  in  which  it  ceased  to  be  a  principality. 

In  1927,  Munshi  decided,  in  response  to  Sir  Chimanlal 
Setalvad’s  suggestion,  to  contest  the  university  seat  in  the 
Bombay  Legislative  Council  following  its  vacation  by 
Dr.  (later  Sir)  Raghunath  R  Paranjpye  who  was  given  an 
assignment  in  London.  Munshi  threw  himself  into  the  electoral 
fray  with  his  characteristic  zeal  and  thoroughness,  touring  the 
sprawling  province  from  one  end  to  the  other.  He  told  the 
graduate  voters  that  he  would  strive  for  the  enactment  of  a  new 
university  legislation  for  the  creation  of  a  representative  Senate 
and  for  the  establishment  of  a  Department  of  Technology.  He 
would  also  try  to  get  separate  universities  for  Maharashtra  and 
Gujarat.  He  explained  that  the  function  of  a  university  should  be 
not  merely  to  affiliate  colleges  and  to  conduct  examinations  but 
also  to  undertake  the  responsibility  of  teaching.  He  also  urged 
that  a  proper  academic  “atmosphere”  should  be  created  in  a 
university.  “This  atmosphere”,  he  wrote,  “is  created  by  its 
professors,  its  traditions,  its  learning  by  an  esprit  de  corps 
among  its  students,  teachers  and  professors,  by  consciousness 
of  cultural  unity  as  represented  by  the  university,  and  by  a  high 
ideal  of  knowledge  pursued,  not  merely  for  the  sake  of  the 
information  required  but  for  its  own  extension  and  always  with 
reference  to  the  attainment  of  truth’  ”.  Munshi  won  the  election 
and  took  his  seat  in  the  Bombay  Legislative  Council  in  1927. 

Repeated  disappointments  did  not  dampen  his  ardour  for 
setting  up  more  universities  in  India.  In  1944,  he  was  in  Udaipur 
to  preside  over  the  Hindi  Sahitya  Sammelan  when  he  met  the 
Maharana  of  that  State,  Bhupal  Singh.  He  soon  became  the 
Constitutional  Adviser  to  the  ruler  and  proposed  to  him  to  start 

Education  and  National  Language 


a  university  at  Chitor  to  be  named  after  his  illustrious  ancestor, 
Maharana  Pratap  Singh.  Todd  in  his  Annals  and  Antiquities  of 
Rajasthan  writes:  “Pratap  succeeded  to  the  titles  and  renown 
of  an  illustrious  house,  but  without  a  capital,  without  resources, 
his  kindred  and  clans  dispirited  by  reverses  :  yet  possessed  by 
the  noble  spirit  of  his  race,  he  meditated  the  recovery  of  Chitor, 
the  vindication  of  the  honour  of  his  house  and  the  restoration 
of  its  power”.  His  heroic  stand  against  the  overwhelmingly 
superior  military  might  of  the  Moguls  in  the  memorable  battle  of 
Haldighat  on  June  21,  1576,  has  won  for  him  imperishable  fame 
as  a  warrior  of  incomparable  courage  and  fortitude.  It  was  to 
perpetuate  the  name  of  this  legendary  figure  that  Munshi  wanted 
the  ruling  Maharaja  to  establish  a  seat  of  learning  at  Chitor. 

In  making  his  suggestions,  Munshi  did  not  surrender 
himself  merely  to  sentiment  and  emotion.  He  had  good  reasons 
for  proposing  the  founding  of  a  university  away  from  large  cities 
and  towns.  He  pointed  out  in  his  scheme  that  education 
acquired  amidst  metropolitan  surroundings  tended  to  weigh  the 
scales  heavily  on  the  side  of  mundane  pursuits.  It  was  apt  to  be 
used  as  an  “instrument  for  making  money”.  The  true  aim  of 
higher  education  should  be  to  encourage  the  spirit  of  enquiry  in 
the  student  by  stimulating  his  capacity  for  thought  and  reflection 
and  to  inspire  in  him  a  genuine  respect  for  literary  traditions  and 
the  immemorial  culture  of  the  land.  Chitor,  he  felt,  would 
become  an  ideal  venue  for  the  pursuit  of  this  national  goal. 
Besides  being  far  away  from  the  madding  crowds,  it  was 
looked  upon  as  a  “national  centre  of  heroism”.  The  place  was 
relatively  cheap  and  accessible.  The  feasibility  of  the  project 
had  been  examined  earlier  by  a  Committee  appointed  by  the 
Rajasthan  Kshatriya  Mahasabha.  Munshi  had  no  doubt  in  his 
mind  that  a  university  at  Chitor  would  thrive,  but  the  time  was 
not  propitious  for  initiating  any  worthwhile  move  in  that 
direction.  The  minds  of  the  policy-makers  were  almost  exclusively 


K.  M.  Munshi 

pre-occupied  with  the  problem  of  the  country’s  constitutional 
future  so  that  other  issues  were  relegated  to  the  background. 

The  agitation  for  a  separate  university  was  conducted  by 
the  Marathi-speaking  leaders  with  such  pertinacity  that  it 
became  impossible  for  the  Bombay  Government  to  shelve  the 
issue.  The  Government  found  it  necessary  to  commit  itself  firmly 
to  the  principle  of  establishing  regional  universities  in  the 
province.  Expert  bodies  were  accordingly  appointed  to  make 
recommendations  towards  this  end.  On  April  21,  1947  a 
Committee  under  the  chairmanship  of  justice  M.  C.  Chagla  was 
appointed  “to  make  recommendations  as  to  the  scope,  form, 
constitution  and  jurisdiction  of  a  university  for  Gujarat,  including 
the  question  of  granting  affiliation  to  institutions  outside  the  limits 
of  the  Bombay  Province”.  Munshi,  who  was  a  member  of  the 
Committee,  wrote  a  note  on  the  medium  of  instruction,  saying 
that  adoption  of  Gujarati  as  an  optional  medium  in  the  university 
as  suggested  in  the  report,  would  adversely  affect  its  academic 
standards.  He,  therefore,  suggested  that  “Hindi  should  be 
accepted  as  the  principal  medium  in  the  proposed  university  and 
that  for  a  period  of  five  years  English  should  be  permitted  as  an 
optional  medium.  After  the  period  of  five  years,  Hindi  should 
become  the  principal  medium  of  instruction  with  optional  English 
in  such  subjects  as  have  no  essential  literature  available  in 
Hindi”.  Gujarat  University  was  established  at  Ahmedabad  in 
1950.  In  the  previous  year,  Poona  and  Karnataka  Universities, 
the  latter  situated  at  Dharwad,  had  been  brought  into  existence. 

Munshi,  who  had  made  a  penetrating  study  of  India’s 
ancient  history  and  culture,  had  developed  a  habitual  vision  of 
her  greatness.  To  make  his  countrymen  better  aware  of  the 
antiquity,  the  vastness  and  the  splendour  of  their  heritage 
became  the  mission  of  his  life.  The  country’s  immense  treasure- 
house  of  knowledge  and  wisdom  was  embodied  mostly  in 

Education  and  National  Language 


Sanskrit  and  he  thought  that  the  surest  way  of  reviving  at  least 
part  of  its  past  glory  was  to  create  a  wider  interest  in  this 
classical  language.  “For  a  thousand  years”,  he  declared  on 
October  8,  1953,  “the  greatest  integrating  force  in  India  was 
Sanskrit”.  On  February  16,  1955,  he  declared  in  his  address  to 
the  annual  Convocation  of  the  Utkala  Sanskrit  Parishad  at  Puri 
that  Sanskrit  was  “one  of  the  greatest  classical  languages  of  the 
world”  and  that  for  us  Indians  it  was  “the  source  and  symbol  of 
our  great  heritage”.* 

Munshi  did  not  exaggerate.  Indologists  like  Nathaniel 
Halhed,  Charles  Wilkins,  William  Jones,  H.  H.  Wilson  and 
Henry  Colebrooke,  to  mention  the  names  of  only  a  few  British 
officials  of  the  East  India  Company  who  served  in  this  country 
in  the  eighteenth  century,  have  by  their  scholarly  labours  and 
utterances  expressed  their  deep  admiration  for  this  language. 
Many  of  them  were  in  fact  “Sanskrit  mad”.  Sir  William  Jones 
belonged  to  a  class  by  himself.  He  was  acclaimed  as  a  “prodigy 
of  learning”  and  his  knowledge  of  Sanskrit  was  believed  to  be 
unrivalled.  As  the  President  of  the  Asiatic  Society  of  Bengal,  he 
wrote  in  1786  thus  about  Sanskrit:  “The  Sanskrit  language, 
whatever  be  its  antiquity,  is  of  a  wonderful  structure,  more 
perfect  than  Greel ,  more  copious  than  Latin,  and  more 

exquisitely  refined  than  either . ”  An  eminent  Indian  scholar, 

Dr.  Belvalkar,  Director  of  Research,  Bhandarkar  Oriental 
Research  Institute,  held  that  “next  to  one’s  own  mother  tongue 
which  everyone  inevitably  learns  by  Nature’s  method,  the  first 
language,  the  study  of  which  ought  to  be  academically  pursued, 
is  and  ought  to  be  Sanskrit,  the  language  of  India’s  culture 
and  traditions”.# 

*  Sparks  from  a  Governor's  Anvil  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  320 
and  Volume  II,  p.  216. 

#The  Report  of  the  University  Education  Commission, 
December  1948- August  1949,  p.  131. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

It  was  indeed  the  pioneering  labours  of  the  European 
Indologists  that  evoked  global  interest  in  Indian  contribution  to 
human  civilization.  Since  then  the  antiquity,  the  depth  and  the 
great  empirical  quality  of  Hindu  thought  have  exercised  a 
profound  influence  on  many  distinguished  Western  scholars  and 
philosophers.  Schopenhauer,  the  great  German  thinker,  declared: 
“The  study  of  the  Upanishads  has  been  the  solace  of  my  life;  it 
will  be  the  solace  of  my  death"’.  Endorsing  this  remarkable 
affirmation  of  faith,  the  eminent  Professor  Max  Muller  said:  “I 
am  neither  afraid  nor  ashamed  to  say  that  I  share  his  enthusiasm 
for  Vedanta,  and  feel  indebted  to  it  for  much  that  has  been 
helpful  to  me  in  my  passage  through  life”.  It  is  small  wonder  that 
Munshi  strove  to  make  the  study  of  Sanskrit  in  all  its  depth  and 
amplitude  a  national  undertaking. 

He  was  not  attempting  the  impossible.  It  has  lcng  been 
accepted  by  scholars  that  India’s  great  classical  language  is  a 
distant  cousin  of  most  of  the  European  languages.  After  the 
composition  of  the  Rig  Veda,  the  oldest  religious  text  in  the 
world  composed  probably  between  1500  and  900  B.C., 
Sanskrit  developed  considerably,  but  it  was  probably  never 
spoken  by  the  masses  in  its  classical  form.  It  was  certainly  read 
and  spoken  by  the  upper  class  since  it  was  the  official  language 
of  both  religion  and  State.  It  is  quite  possible  that  it  was 
somewhat  understood  by  a  sizeable  section  of  the  population. 
As  Munshi  rightly  maintained,  it  served  as  a  lingua  franca  for 
the  whole  of  India.  Even  today,  inspite  of  the  growing 
importance  of  regional  languages  and  the  ascendancy  of  English 
in  the  institutions  of  higher  learning,  scholars  in  traditional 
learning  hailing  from  different  parts  of  the  country,  converse 
fluently  in  Sanskrit  when  they  assemble  at  conferences  or  in 
places  of  pilgrimage.  The  thousands  of  pathashalas,  situated  in 
different  parts  of  the  country  and  teaching  Sanskrit  grammar 
and  classics  in  the  traditional  style,  the  Sanskrit  universities  that 

Education  and  National  Language 


have  come  into  existence  since  independence  and  other 
institutions  with  a  better  awareness  of  the  value  of  cultivating  this 
great  language,  have  helped  to  keep  the  lamp  of  Sanskrit 
learning  burning. 

An  historic  occasion  provided  Munshi  the  long  awaited 
opportunity  to  launch  an  organised  drive  to  revive  his 
countrymen’s  interest  in  the  study  of  Sanskrit.  The  hare-brained 
Nawab  of  Junagadh  in  Saurashtra  had  rashly  announced  the 
State’s  accession  to  Pakistan,  a  distant  country  with  which  the 
people  and  the  State  of  Junagadh  had  no  manner  of  connection. 
A  man  of  action  par  excellence,  Sardar  Patel,  the  Deputy 
Prime  Minister,  directed  the  occupation  of  the  State  in 
November  1947  by  the  Indian  troops.  In  February  1948,  a 
referendum  was  held  when  the  people  of  Junagadh 
over-whelmingly  voted  in  favour  of  remaining  in  India,  their  and 
their  ancestors,  motherland  from  time  immemorial.  Decision  was 
taken  to  reconstruct  the  great  Somnath  temple  which  had  been 
sacked  and  destroyed  by  Mahmud  of  Ghazni  in  January  1025 
A.D.  The  Sardar  invited  Munshi  to  draw  up  a  scheme  for  this 
purpose.  In  doing  so,  he  could  not  have  asked  a  more 
competent  person.  Munshi  had  done  a  good  deal  of  historical 
research  on  the  Somnath  temple  which  before  its  destruction 
was  as  famous  as  the  Vishwanath  shrine  at  Banaras.  For  several 
centuries  it  was  also  a  celebrated  seat  of  learning  where  Shaivite 
teachers  of  national  reputation  taught.  Mahmud’s  vandalism  did 
not  deprive  the  shrine  of  its  sanctity.  We  are  told  that  during  the 
Moghul  period  even  Muslim  merchants  going  to  the  port  of 
Prabhas  in  Saurashtra  took  offerings  to  the  temple. 

The  decision  to  renovate  the  Somnath  temple  was  taken 
when  Mahatma  Gandhi  was  still  alive.  With  the  Prime  Minister 
in  the  chair,  the  Union  Cabinet  agreed  to  defray  the  cost,  but, 
at  the  instance  of  the  Mahatma,  it  was  decided  that  the  required 


K.  M.  Munshi 

finances  should  be  raised  from  the  public.  The  Government 
appointed  an  Advisory  Committee,  with  Munshi  as  the  Chairman, 
to  assume  responsibility  for  the  reconstruction  of  the  shrine. 
Munshi  played  a  great  part  in  preparing  the  Trust  Deed  of  the 
temple.  He  was  convinced  that  new  brick  and  mortar  alone 
could  not  restore  the  shrine  to  its  pristine  glory.  As  in  the  past, 
it  must  become  a  great  centre  of  education  with  the  capacity  to 
attract  students  and  scholars  from  all  parts  of  the  country.  The 
Trust  Deed  accordingly  provided  for  the  establishment  of  one  or 
more  institutions  there,  including  a  university,  to  impart  education 
of  a  type  that  would  enable  its  recipients  to  gain  a  sound 
knowledge  of  the  immemorial  wisdom  and  pieties  of  the  land. 
The  study  of  Sanskrit  was  to  become  the  foundation  of  the  new 
system  of  education. 

Munshi  was  never  tired  of  declaring  that  Sanskrit  was  the 
greatest  fertiliser  of  the  Indian  languages.  He  had  achieved 
considerable  mastery  in  Gujarati,  his  mother  tongue,  and  was 
producing  in  it  literature  of  enduring  value,  but  his  passion  for 
the  study  of  Sanskrit  remained  undiminished.  He  wrote  :  “I  am 
not  indifferent  to  the  study  of  modem  Indian  languages.  I  cannot 
be.  For  35  years  now,  I  have  given  of  my  best  to  Gujarati.  My 
faith  in  Hindi  as  the  national  language  of  India  is  unshaken.  I 
have  admired  the  piquancy  and  raciness  of  Marathi  and  the 
grace  of  Bengali.  But  as  a  truly  formative  and  inspiring  influence, 
nothing  compares  with  the  study  of  Sanskrit”.  It  is  small  wonder 
that  the  Tmst  Deed  prepared  by  him  for  the  Somnath  temple 
assigned  a  key  role  to  the  study  of  the  classical  language  in  the 
proposed  educational  institutions.  It  also  provided  for  encouraging 
research  in  Sanskrit  learning,  for  the  publication  of  Hindu 
religious  and  secular  literature  and  for  popularising  the  classical 
language  among  the  general  public. 

Education  and  National  Language 


The  ceremony  of  opening  the  renovated  temple  was 
performed  on  May  11,  1951.  Dr.  Rajendra  Prasad,  President 
of  India,  who  was  present  on  the  occasion,  delivered  a 
memorable  speech  on  the  importance  of  the  event.  Recalling  the 
glory  of  India’s  past,  the  President  said  :  “In  that  era,  India  had 

been  a  treasure-house  of  gold  and  silver . Centuries 

ago,  the  major  portion  of  the  gold  of  the  world  was  in  the 
temples  of  India.  It  is  my  view  that  the  reconstruction  of  the 
Somnath  temple  will  be  complete  on  that  day  when  not  only  a 
magnificent  edifice  will  arise  on  this  foundation,  but  the  mansion 

of  India’s  prosperity  will  be  ready . that  prosperity  of 

which  the  ancient  temple  of  Somnath  was  a  symbol”.* 

On  that  day,  when  delegates  from  nineteen  universities 
were  present,  a  Sanskrit  Parishad  was  inaugurated  by  the 
President  of  the  Indian  National  Congress,  Purushottamdas 
Tandon.  He  appealed  to  the  scholars  to  appreciate  the  value  of 
Sanskrit  in  sustaining  and  revitalising  the  Indian  culture.  The 
Maharaja  of  Travancore,  who  presided  over  the  function, 
reminded  his  countrymen  that  Sanskrit  symbolised  the 
homogeneity  and  the  oneness  of  India.  It  was  felt  that  the 
dissemination  of  Sanskrit  learning  should  transcend  the  national 
frontiers  and  must  have  a  global  reach.  Dr.  Rajendra  Prasad 
gave  his  wholehearted  support  to  the  suggestion  for  promoting 
a  world  academy  of  Sanskrit. 

At  the  conference  Munshi  moved  a  resolution  which  reads 
in  parts  thus:  “We  the  delegates  of  the  Akhil  Bharatitya  Sanskrit 
Parishad  now  assembled  at  Prabhas  declare  in  all  solemnity  and 
faith  that  Sanskrit  is  the  language  of  India’s  culture  and 
inspiration,  that  it  is  the  world’s  classical  language  and  the  key 
to  a  true  understanding  of  India’s  cultural  and  spiritual  greatness, 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p.  288. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

and  that  through  Sanskrit  and  its  allied  languages,  particularly 
Pali  and  Prakrit,  the  world  can  realise  the  life  of  the  spirit 
enshrined  in  them”.  The  resoluton  also  envisaged  the  establishment 
of  a  Sanskrit  Visva  Parishad  to  work  in  association  with  the 
Somnath  Trust.  The  resolution  was  seconded  by  Justice  N.  H. 
Bhagwati.  Dr.  Rajendra  Prasad  was  unanimously  elected 
President  of  the  new  world  academy  of  Sanskrit.  Later,  a  centre 
of  the  Parishad  was  opened  in  America.  The  American 
Academy  of  Asian  Studies  agreed  to  propagate  the  message  of 
the  Parishad  under  the  direction  of  L.  P.  Gainsborough. 
Branches  were  later  opened  in  Sri  Lanka,  Germany  and  Japan. 

Munshi  did  not  rest  on  his  oars.  He  wrote  to  lovers  of 
Sanskrit  in  India  and  abroad,  telling  them  how  best  its  study 
could  be  advanced  and  with  what  advantage  to  general 
enlightenment.  He  saw  to  it  that  the  Visva  Parishad  held  its 
annual  sessions  regularly.  At  its  fourth  session,  held  in  Tirupati, 
the  famous  place  of  pilgrimage  in  Andhra  Pradesh,  and  attended 
by  some  15,00  delegates,  an  influential  body  was  set  up  to  meet 
Government  leaders  in  order  to  apprise  them  of  the  importance 
of  revitalising  Sanskrit  learning.  In  February  1956,  it  asked  the 
Government  to  set  up  an  all-India  Board  of  Sanskrit  Studies 
with  a  view  to  coordinating,  standardising  and  promoting 
Sanskrit  studies  all  over  the  country  by  “both  modern  and 
traditional  methods”.  It  also  suggested  the  establishment  of  a 
Central  Institute  “to  promote  higher  study  and  learning,  and 
research  in  Sanskrit”.  A  high-power  Commission  was  appointed 
by  the  Government  in  October  1956  to  study  the  prevailing 
state  of  Sanskrit  education  in  the  country  and  to  make 
recommendations  for  its  improvement.  Thanks  to  Munshi ’s 
indefatigable  labours,  Sri  Venkateswara  University  at  Tirupati 
was  established  in  1954  and  two  years  later  Kurukshetra 
University  came  into  existence.  In  1958,  the  Varanaseya 

Education  and  National  Language 


Sanskrit  Vishwavidyalaya  was  set  up  at  Banaras;  three  years 
later  it  was  followed  by  K.  S.  Darbhanga  Sanskrit 
Vishwavidyalaya.  It  is  difficult  to  think  of  any  other  leader  who 
laboured  so  hard  and  so  constructively  for  the  revival  of 
Sanskrit  studies  in  India  as  Munshi  did.  He  gave  them  pride  of 
place  in  the  activities  of  the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan,  which  he 
founded  in  November  1938.  It  was  indeed  in  the  fitness  of 
things  that  he  was  invited  to  inaugurate  the  All-India  Sanskrit 
Conference  in  1945. 

Munshi  was  an  ardent  advocate  of  Hindi  as  India’s 
national  language.  He  had  been  championing  its  cause  long 
before  the  Constitution  raised  it  to  the  status  of  the  official 
language  of  the  Indian  Union  in  1950.  In  his  Presidential 
address  to  the  Hindi  Sahitya  Sammelan  at  Udaipur,  he  called 
attention  to  the  census  figures  of  1931,  according  to  which 
those  who  spoke  Hindi  well  and  those  who  spoke  it  with  a 
slight  effort  formed  69  per  cent  of  the  population  of  the  country. 
On  the  strength  of  these  statistics,  he  maintained  that  there  was 
no  need  to  make  Hindi  the  national  language  because  it  was 
already  one.  The  great  religious  and  social  reformer,  Swami 
Dayanand  Saraswati  (1824- 1883), who  hailed  from  Morvi  in 
Gujarat,  had  elevated  it  to  that  status  long  before  any  concerted 
move  was  made  in  that  direction. 

Munshi  wanted  all  Indian  languages  to  develop  and  thus  be 
able  to  contribute  to  the  enrichment  of  Indian  literature.  It  was 
indeed  his  ambition  to  create  what  he  called  a  “commonwealth 
of  literatures”  in  this  country.  Such  a  commonwealth,  he  wrote, 
could  only  be  rendered  possible  “through  the  medium  of  Hindi 
and  implies  a  coordinated  effort  on  the  part  of  the  literary  men 
from  all  provinces”.  Once  this  goal  was  reached,  it  would  be 
possible  to  create  “federation”  of  provincial  “Sahitya  Parishads 
and  thus  pave  the  way  for  the  establishment  of  an  all-India 


K.  M.  Munshi 

literary  body.  He  had  been  yearning  to  promote  such  literary 
unity  in  the  country  from  the  time  he  became  closely  associated 
with  the  Gujarati  Sahitya  Parishad.  It  was  not  an  utopian 
concept  and  was  well  received  by  discerning  men  of  letters.  To 
propagate  this  idea,  he  started  a  monthly  magazine  called  Hans 
in  Hindi  with  himself  and  Premchand,  the  great  Hindi  novelist, 
as  joint  editors.  The  venture  was  blessed  by  Mahatma  Gandhi 
and  achieved  instant  success.  Many  writers  from  different  parts 
of  the  country  found  their  place  in  it,  but  the  career  of  the 
magazine  was  meteoric.  It  disappeared  from  the  Indian  literary 
firmament  in  less  than  a  year. 

Munshi  had,  however,  no  illusions  about  the  limitation  of 
Hindi  as  a  medium  of  modern  thought.  Like  all  other  Indian 
languages,  it  had  suffered  centuries  of  stagnation  during  the 
British  period.  Like  them,  it  had  lost  its  resilience  in  order  to  be 
able  to  turn  out  good  and  adequate  literature  in  science  and 
technology  and  in  various  other  branches  of  modem  knowledge. 
Far  from  providing  a  window  on  the  world,  it  had  not  even 
been  able  to  supply  a  pee-phole.  He,  therefore,  wanted  it  to 
shed  its  backwardness  and  become  a  living  and  dynamic  vehicle 
of  expression  to  meet  the  manifold  needs  of  a  modem  society. 
It  could  hope  to  win  the  allegiance  of  the  majority  of  the  Indian 
people  only  if  it  was  atleast  one  lap  ahead  of  the  most  advanced 
languages  in  the  country.  It  could  achieve  this  distinction  if  it 
could  create  conditions  when  words  came,  to  use  the  felicitous 
phrase  of  Bacon,  home  to  men’s  business  and  bosoms.  Even 
after  he  had  played  a  leading  role  in  getting  Hindi  written  into 
the  Constitution  as  the  Union  Government’s  official  language,  he 
conducted  a  ceaseless  campaign  for  vitalising  that  language  so 
that  it  could  become  worthy  of  its  elevation.  For  instance,  on 
February  17,  1953,  he  said  at  Aligarh:  “For  the  purpose  of 
developing  power,  Hindi  has  to  be  viewed  in  the  aspects  both 
of  a  spoken  language  of  popular  use  and  as  the  medium  of 

Education  and  National  Language 


higher  expression . In  the  second  aspect,  as  a 

national  medium  of  power,  it  must  produce  a  vocabulary 
acceptable  to  the  bulk  of  the  country;  to  incorporate  new  words 
and  idioms  freely,  not  only  from  other  Indian,  but  even  foreign 
languages;  and,  lastly,  to  acquire  the  freedom  and  elasticity,  not 
only  to  absorb  new  elements,  but  to  reach  out  to  a  higher 
expression  of  thought  and  beauty”.* 

Munshi’s  attitude  to  English  was  clear  and  realistic.  He 
refused  to  envisage  a  day  when  its  use  could  be  dispensed  with 
in  this  country.  He  rejected  the  argument  that,  being  a  foreign 
language,  it  needed  to  be  expelled.  Such  “hypersensitive 
nationalism”,  he  was  convinced,  would  do  no  good  to  anybody. 
On  October  8,  1953,  he  warned  the  Bharatiya  Hindi  Parishad 
thus:  “If  you  emphasise  the  elimination  of  English  too  insistently, 
Hindi  will  not  gain,  but  lose;  nationalism  will  suffer  an  eclipse; 
regional  consciousness  will  grow;  and  the  linguistic  balkanisation 
of  India  will  bring  about  serious  consequences”.  He  invented  the 
expressive  word  “linguism”  to  describe  linguistic  intolerance 

. a  term  which  has  not  yet  found  a  place  in  the  English 


He  spoke  and  wrote  repeatedly  on  India’s  indebtedness  to 
the  English  language.  Besides  broadening  the  mental  horizon  of 
the  intellectual  classes,  it  stimulated  in  them,  and  through  them 
in  others,  a  passionate  desire  for  national  freedom.  Its 
cultivation  has  helped  Indians  to  be  in  close  touch  with  the 
various  developments  in  modem  arts  and  sciences.  India’s  pre¬ 
eminence  in  the  third  world  is  due  not  a  little  to  her  ability  to 
move  with  the  times  through  the  instrumentality  of  this  great 
language.  A  survey  of  the  position  of  English  in  other  parts  of  the 
world  reveals  that  since  the  Second  World  War,  it  has  gained 

*  Sparks  from  a  Governor's  Anvil  by  Dr.  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I,  p. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

considerable  international  popularity.  In  the  domain  of  medical 
research,  it  has  become  an  indispensable  medium.  In  Europe, 
the  results  of  medical  research  have  got  to  be  published  in 
English  if  they  are  to  reach  a  wide  audience.  The  Germans  are 
a  proud  race  but  they  are  highly  pragmatic.  For  years  past,  an 
increasing  number  of  German  medical  journals  have  been  asking 
authors  to  submit  their  manuscripts  in  English.  “In  science”, 
says  a  perceptive  foreign  writer,  “it  is  not  a  question  of  personal 
feeling  or  favouring  national  languages  but  of  the  attempt  to 
develop  one  means  of  communication  for  all”. 

It  was  only  to  be  expected  that  Munshi’s  love  for  Hindi  did 
not  blind  him  to  the  realities  of  the  Indian  and  international 
situation.  He  commended  English  to  his  countrymen  in  these 
eloquent  words  :  “The  introduction  of  English  in  India  was  no 
ordinary  event.  When  English  came  to  us,  the  world  entered  a 
new  age.  India  joined  the  brotherhood  of  the  English-speaking 
world.  It  led,  as  I  have  said,  to  a  cultural  upheaval  in  India,  to 
a  wide  vision.  The  barriers  of  latitude,  colour  and  race  were 
broken  down;  the  East  mingled  with  the  West  in  the  sphere  of 
the  mind;  a  great  step  was  taken  towards  establishing  direct 
human  intercourse,  and  sweeping  away  national  frontiers.... 
Today,  English  is  ours,  and  with  its  aid  we  can  make  ourselves 
felt  more  than  through  any  other  agency.  It  would,  therefore,  be 
criminal  to  ignore  or  neglect  English  in  this  country”.*  The  length 
of  the  passage  calls  for  no  apology  since  it  vividly  portrays 
Munshi’s  convictions  on  an  issue  of  vital  national  importance. 

Munshi  was,  however,  even  more  convinced  that  in  a 
polyglot  country  like  India  with  its  strong  centrifugal  tendencies, 
a  national  language  was  indispensable  to  promote  and  sustain  a 
single  consciousness  among  its  people.  After  much  reflection, 

*  Munshi  at  Seventy-five,  quoted  on  p.  138. 

Education  and  National  Language 


he  had  come  to  the  conclusion  that  Hindi  alone  could  play  this 
role.  It  was  not  an  easy  task  to  secure  its  acceptance  in  the 
Constituent  Assembly.  Not  only  the  South,  but  several  other 
non-Hindi  regions  were  not  prepared  to  accord  to  it  any 
primacy  over  their  own  tongues.  Speaking  in  the  Constituent 
Assembly  on  September  13,  1949,  T.  A.  Ramalingam  Chettiar 
declared  that  the  language  question  meant  “life  and  death  for  the 
South”.  He  added:  “We  have  got  languages  which  are  better 
cultivated  and  which  have  greater  literature  than  Hindi  in  our 
areas”.  After  making  a  claim  to  the  distinctiveness  of  Tamil,  his 
mother  tongue,  he  told  the  members  from  the  North  that  unless 
they  made  “everybody  feel  that  they  have  got  a  share  in  the 
country  and  it  is  their  country,  unless  you  do  that,  if  you  go  on 
keeping  the  spirit  of  domination  of  one  part  over  the  other,  I  am 
sure  the  result  is  not  going  to  be  for  the  progress  or  for  the 
safety  of  the  country”.#  In  the  previous  year,  on  November  5, 
T.  T.  Krishnamachari,  who  later  held  responsible  positions  in  the 
Nehru  Cabinet,  said  that  among  the  various  forms  of  imperialism, 
lignuistic  imperialism  was  the  most  powerful  one.  Dr.  Shyama 
Prasad  Mookerjee,  a  front  rank  leader  from  West  Bengal  and 
founder  of  the  Bharatiya  Jana  Sangh,  said  that  by  merely 
making  provision  for  a  language  in  the  Constitution,  the  task  of 
giving  the  country  a  common  language  could  not  be 
accomplished.  Maulana  Abul  Kalam  Azad  said  that  there  was 
no  “national  language  as  such  which  can  immediately  take  the 
place  of  English.  Time  is  needed  to  evolve  it,  brush  it, 
and  polish  it”. 

The  task  before  Munshi  for  getting  Hindi  accepted  as  the 
official  language  by  the  Constituent  Assembly  was  thus  not  easy. 
After  presiding  over  the  Hindi  Sahitya  Sammelan  at  Udaipur,  his 
fame  as  the  champion  of  that  language  had  read  among  the 

^Constituent  Assembly  Debates  :  Official  Report,  Volume  9,  p.  1375. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Hindi-speaking  people.  It  was  hoped  by  them  that  his 
persuasive  ability  and  eloquence  would  ensure  the  acceptance 
of  their  mother  tongue  as  the  country’s  official  language.  Munshi 
had,  however,  to  watch  his  steps  carefully.  He  teamed  up  with 
N.  Gopalaswami  Ayyangar,  like  him  an  active  participant  in  the 
discussion  on  constitution-making  and  an  influential  member 
from  the  South,  in  evolving  a  formula  on  the  thorny  issue. 
Ayyangar,  who  supported  the  plea  for  the  adoption  of  Hindi  as 
the  language  of  the  Union,  called  attention  to  the  need  for  the 
retention  of  English —  “a  language  in  which  many  of  us  have 
been  reared  and  on  the  strength  of  which  we  have  achieved 
our  freedom”. 

Munshi  has  recorded  that  he,  Dr.  Shyama  Prasad 
Mookerjee  and  Ayyangar  met  and  decided  to  break  the 
language  deadlock  by  evolving  a  suitable  modus  vivendi :  He 
persuaded  the  Congress  party,  which  held  a  dominant  position 
in  the  Constituent  Assembly,  to  adopt  a  resolution  moved  by 
him  on  the  issue.  According  to  the  compromise  proposal,  Hindi 
with  the  Devanagari  script  should  be  the  Indian  Government’s 
official  language.  English  should  also  hold  that  position  for  a 
period  of  ten  years.  The  proposal  received  wide  support.  Thus 
what  has  come  to  be  known  as  the  Munshi- Ayyangar  formula 
prevailed  and,  with  suitable  modifications,  was  eventually 
incorporated  into  the  Constitution  as  Articles  343  and  344.  In 
a  tribute  to  Munshi  on  his  contribution  to  the  cause  of  Hindi, 
Professor  Ramdhari  Singh  Dinkar,  Member  of  Parliament  and 
a  leading  Hindi  poet  and  writer,  said  :  “The  Indian  people  as  a 
whole  will  always  gratefully  remember  the  far-sighted  service 
rendered  to  the  country  by  Munshi  in  making  Hindi  attain  the 
stature  of  the  national  language”. 

In  the  following  years,  the  language  question  caused  much 
distress  to  Munshi.  No  systematic  attempts  were  made  to  rescue 

Education  and  National  Language 


Hindi  from  the  trammels  of  stagnation  and  to  make  it  widely 
acceptable  as  a  worthy  vehicle  of  modem  thought.  The  South  and 
more  especially  Tamilnadu,  resolved  not  to  have  anything  to  do 
with  it.  Even  more  alarming  was  the  growth  of  regional 
chauvinism,  represented  by  a  relentless  campaign  for  the  creation 
of  linguistic  states.  He  was  not  opposed  to  the  reorganisation  of 
the  provincial  boundaries  on  rational  lines.  The  existence  of  five 
hundred  odd  Princely  States  and  a  number  of  British  Indian 
provinces  conformed  to  no  accepted  canons  of  territorial  or 
administrative  demarcation.  For  instance,  the  area  inhabited  by 
the  Kannada  speaking  people  was  divided  between  the  provinces 
of  Bombay  and  Madras,  Mysore  State,  Coorg,  the  Southern 
Maratha  Country  States,  and  a  petty  principality  in  the  second- 
named  province.  The  position  of  Gujarat  was  no  better.  It  was 
split  up  into  the  British  Indian  districts  of  Bombay  Presidency,  the 
Baroda  State,  the  Gujarat  States,  the  Kathiawad  States  and 
Kutch.  Such  an  outrageous  arrangement  needed  to  be  ended  and 
Munshi  was  all  for  it.  Under  Sardar  Patel’s  statesman-like  drive, 
the  almost  impossible  task  of  integrating  the  princely  India  with 
the  rest  of  the  country  became  an  accomplished  fact.  But  Munshi 
had  not  bargained  for  the  reorganisation  to  take  the  form  of 
mutually-exclusive  and  self-regarding  units.  He  always  looked 
upon  Gujarat  essentially  as  a  cultural  unit  and  not  as  an 
autonomous  region  wanting  to  live  in  a  state  of  semi-isolation 
from  the  rest  of  the  country.  His  patriotism  was  too  robust  to 
succumb  to  such  parochial  attractions. 

He  was,  therefore,  much  worried  when  he  saw  that  soon 
after  independence,  there  was  a  clamant  demand  from  many 
quarters  for  the  creation  of  linguistic  states.  It  is  true  that  long 
before  national  freedom  the  Congress  had  committed  itself  to 
redraw  the  country’s  administrative  map  on  those  lines. 
Mahatma  Gandhi  was  also  a  party  to  it.  But  the  situation  that 
faced  free  India  was  so  different  that  past  pledges  had  ceased 


K.  M.  Munshi 

to  be  relevant.  The  partition  of  the  country  was,  as  Nehru 
pointed  out,  a  “major  operation”,  calling  for  a  long  period  of 
treatment  to  heal  the  wound.  Besides,  Swaraj  had  been  won 
after  making  solemn  promises  to  the  masses  that  their  welfare 
would  be  the  first  concern  of  the  free  Indian  Government.  In  the 
words  of  the  Prime  Minister,  first  things  had  to  come  first,  they 
being  the  protection  of  the  national  frontiers,  the  strengthening 
of  internal  security,  and  the  adoption  of  measures  to  banish  the 
triple  curse  of  hunger,  ignorance  and  disease  from  the  land. 

None  of  these  considerations,  however,  prevailed  with  the 
linguistic  irredentists.  The  Congress  had  agreed  to  give  primacy 
to  language  in  the  formation  of  states.  Their  hands  were  further 
strengthened  by  the  Prime  Minister’s  statement  in  the  Constituent 
Assembly  on  November  27,  1947,  that  the  principle  underlying 
the  demand  for  linguistic  provinces  had  been  accepted  by  the 
Government.  Later,  it  was  officially  stated  that  Andhra  would  be 
mentioned  as  a  separate  unit  in  the  new  Constitution.  The 
Drafting  Committee,  however,  thought  that  such  a  course  of 
action  would  not  fully  meet  the  requirements  of  the  prevailing 
situation  and  accordingly  suggested  that  a  Commission  should 
be  appointed  to  make  recommendations  not  only  concerning 
Andhra  but  other  linguistic  regions  as  well.  Following  this 
suggestion,  a  Commission  was  appointed  by  the  President  of 
the  Constituent  Assembly  on  June  17,  1948,  consisting  of  S.  K. 
Dar,  a  retired  judge  of  the  Allahabad  High  Court,  (Chairman), 
Pannalal,  a  retired  member  of  the  Indian  Civil  Service,  and 
Jagat  Narain  Lai,  a  member  of  the  Constituent  Assembly. 

Munshi  viewed  the  whole  proceedings  with  distaste.  Since 
1946,  he  had  been  warning  about  the  dangers  of  linguistic 
intolerance  which,  he  feared,  would  gravely  undermine  the 
national  unity.  He  recalled  what  the  Prime  Minister  himself  had 
been  saying:  “It  produced  more  conflict  and  trouble  than  any 

Education  and  National  Language 


kind  of  peaceful  solution  to  the  problem”.  Munshi  missed  no 
opportunity  of  ventilating  his  views  before  the  Linguistic 
Provinces  Commission,  of  which  he  was  an  Associate  Member. 
He  submitted  to  it  a  detailed  note  which  was  later  published  in 
book  form  under  the  title  Linguistic  Provinces  and  Future  of 
Bombay .  Better  known  as  the  Dar  Commission,  the  expert 
body  examined  the  issue  with  complete  detachment  and 
with  the  larger  and  lasting  interests  of  the  country  at  heart. 
It  did  not  regard  the  demand  for  linguistic  states  as  wholly 
sterile.  In  states  having  a  great  measure  of  linguistic 
homogeneity,  it  would  be  possible  to  impart  education  to  the 
bulk  of  its  student  population  in  its  own  mother  tongue  and  to 
conduct  the  official  correspondence  and  the  deliberations  of  the 
legislature  in  the  language  of  the  people.  These  were  certainly 
great  assets,  but  there  were  other  considerations  which 
outweighed  such  advantages. 

The  Commission  pointed  out  that  the  weakness  of  the 
demand  lay  in  the  fact  that  it  involved  “the  recognition  of  the 
principle  of  government  of  a  province  by  a  linguistic  group, 
which  is  basically  wrong”.  Strongly  warning  against  giving 
primacy  to  the  linguistic  principle,  it  said  :  “Indian  nationalism  is 
deeply  wedded  to  its  regional  languages;  Indian  patriotism  is 
aggressively  attached  to  its  provincial  frontiers.  If  India  is  to 
survive,  Indian  nationalism  and  patriotism  will  have  to  sacrifice 
some  of  its  cherished  sentiments  in  the  larger  interests  of  the 
country”.  Urging  that  there  should  be  a  strong  Centre  with 
“over-riding  powers”,  the  investigating  body  recommended 
thus:  “In  any  rational  and  scientific  planning  that  may  take  place 
in  regard  to  the  provinces  of  India  in  the  future,  homogeneity  of 
language  alone  cannot  be  decisive  or  even  an  important  factor. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Administrative  convenience,  history,  geography,  economy,  culture, 
and  many  other  matters  will  have  to  be  given  weight”.*  It  held 
that  the  forces  of  nationalism  in  the  country  were  still  feeble  and 
considered  it  most  unwise  to  undertake  the  reorganisation  of  the 
provinces  at  that  time. 

These  were  the  warnings  and  recommendations  of 
a  high-power  Commission  and  the  path  of  wisdom  lay  in 
deferring  to  them  without  demur.  Dr.  Ambedkar,  who  piloted 
the  Constitution  Bill  in  the  Constituent  Assembly,  was  equally 
categorical  in  declaring  himself  against  the  linguistic  principle. 
Urging  that  there  should  be  strong  links  between  the  principal 
government  and  its  constituent  units,  he  said  that  linguistic 
provinces  would  “result  in  creating  as  many  nations  as  there  are 
groups,  with  pride  in  their  race,  language  and  literature.  The 
Central  Legislature  will  be  a  League  of  Nations  and  the  Central 
Executive  may  become  a  meeting  of  separate  and  solidified 
nations  filled  with  the  consciousness  of  their  being  separate  in 
culture  and  therefore  in  interests”.  Other  voices  were  also  raised 
against  regional  and  linguistic  chauvinism.  With  his  characteristic 
bluntness,  Sarder  Patel  characterised  the  language  enthusiasts 
as  the  “assassins  of  nationalism”.  Pandit  Gobind  Ballabh  Pant 
wanted  the  idea  of  linguistic  states  to  be  given  a  “decent  burial”. 

In  December  1948,  the  Congress  appointed  a  Committee 
consisting  of  Jawaharlal  Nehru,  Vallabhbhai  Patel  and  Pattabhi 
Sitaramyya  (JVP)  to  make  recommendations  on  the  question  of 
the  states’  reorganisation.  The  Committee  felt  that  the  conditions 
that  had  emerged  in  the  country  since  independence  made  it  to 
view  the  problem  of  linguistic  provinces  “in  a  new  light”.  It 
would  prefer  the  reorganisation  question  to  be  postponed  by  a 

*Tlie  Framing  of  India's  Constitution  :  Select  Documents,  Volume  IV, 
The  Indian  Institute  of  Public  Administration,  1966,  pp.  475-76. 

Education  and  National  Language 


few  years  “so  that  we  might  concentrate  during  this  period  on 
other  matters  of  vital  importance  and  not  allow  ourselves  to  be 
distracted  by  this  question.”  The  three  leaders,  however, 
weakened  their  own  argument  by  adding  that  they  would  submit 
to  “public  sentiment”  in  favour  of  forming  linguistic  provinces  if 
it  was  “insistent  and  overwhelming”.  Their  report  was  endorsed 
by  the  Congress  executive  in  April  1949.  If  the  ruling  party 
really  thought  that  public  opinion  was  strongly  in  favour  of  a 
change,  it  should  have  undertaken  it  systematically  and  without 
any  undue  loss  of  time.  The  whole  question  of  reorganisation 
arose  out  of  the  Andhra  issue.  A  Telugu-speaking  state  was 
created  only  in  October  1953,  that  is,  more  than  four  and  a  half 
years  after  its  formation  was  recommended  by  the  JVP 
Committee.  It  was  hustled  into  existence  following  the  death  by 
fasting  of  Potti  Sriramulu,  on  the  issue.  Commenting  on  the 
ruling  party’s  failure  to  stand  firm,  Munshi  said:  “It  talked 
wisdom  and  acted  unwisely”. 

By  now  emotion  and  sentiment  had  virtually  dethroned 
reason  and  understanding.  The  Government  found  it  impossible 
to  resist  the  demand  for  a  similar  dispensation  in  other  linguistic 
areas.  The  Prime  Minister's  announcement  of  December  22, 
1953,  appointing  the  States  Reorganisation  Commission,  could 
justifiably  be  traced  to  the  compulsion  of  events.  The  Commission 
consisted  of  S.  Fazl  Ali,  a  retired  High  Court  Judge,  (Chairman), 
and  two  eminent  members,  namely,  Pandit  Hriday  Nath  Kunzm 
and  Sardar  K.  M.  Pannikkar.  Like  the  Dar  Commission,  it 
made  a  thorough  study  of  the  pros  and  cons  of  forming  new 
states  on  linguistic  lines  and  like  it  came  to  the  conclusion  that 
in  the  wider  interests  of  the  country  no  such  course  of  action 
should  be  considered.  The  Commission  declared:  “Experience 
has  everywhere  shown  that  States  based  on  language  are 
intolerant,  aggressive  and  expansionist  in  character.  Already  a 
sense  of  irredentism  is  noticeable  in  the  existing  unilingual  States 


K.  M.  Munshi 

of  India,  which  claim  neighbouring  territories  on  the  basis  of 
language  statistics”.  The  expert  body  warned  that  surrender  to 
regional  and  linguistic  patriotism  would  give  rise  to  the 
dangerous  “homeland”  doctrine. 

It  conceded  that  after  the  integration  of  princely  India  with 
the  rest  of  the  country,  it  became  necessary  to  redraw  the 
administrative  map,  but  it  was  imperative  that  weightage  should 
not  be  given  to  language  in  any  such  undertaking.  Para  152 
represents  the  quintessence  of  the  Report  and  is  reproduced 
here  in  its  entirety  on  account  of  its  significance:  “It  has  to  be 
remembered  that  linguistic  and  other  group  loyalties  have  deep 
roots  in  the  soil  and  history  of  India.  The  culture-based 
regionalism,  centring  round  the  idea  of  linguistic  homogeneity, 
represents  to  the  average  Indian  values  easily  intelligible  to  him. 
Indian  nationalism,  on  the  other  hand,  has  still  to  develop  into 
a  positive  concept.  It  must  acquire  a  deeper  content  before  it 
becomes  ideologically  adequate  to  withstand  the  gravitational 
pull  of  traditional  narrower  loyalties.  In  these  circumstances, 
further  emphasis  on  narrow  loyalties  by  equating  linguistic 
regions  with  political  and  administrative  frontiers,  must  diminish 
the  broader  sense  of  the  unity  of  the  country”.*  The  Commission’s 
apprehension  that  any  over-emphasis  on  language  would 
stimulate  the  disruptive  “homeland”  doctrine  came  true.  After 
the  reorganisation  of  states,  border  disputes  assumed  dangerous 
proportions,  calling  for  the  appointment  of  another  Commission 
to  recommend  their  resolution.  The  one-man  Mehr  Chand 
Mahajan  Commission  on  the  boundary  disputes  between 
Maharashtra,  Mysore  (now  Karnataka)  and  Kerala  had  the 
disconcerting  experience  of  being  told  that  emigration  of 

*  Report  of  the  States  Reorganisation  Commission,  1955,  p.  43. 

Education  and  National  Language 


linguistic  minorities  from  their  hearths  and  homes  provided  the 
best  means  for  the  formation  of  unilingual  states  * 

The  future  of  Bombay  city  presented  an  almost  intractable 
problem  for  the  Fazl  Ali  Commission.  As  a  great  commercial, 
industrial  and  educational  centre,  it  had  come  to  be  known  as 
the  urbs  prima  in  Indis.  Many  communities,  including  the 
Europeans,  the  Parsis,  the  Gujaratis  and  the  Maharashtrians, 
had  made  their  offerings  at  the  altar  of  this  great  metropolis. 
One  section  of  the  people  felt  strongly  that  the  assignment  of 
Bombay  to  Maharashtra  would  deprive  it  of  its  cosmopolitan 
character  and  thus  bring  about  its  decline.  Influential  men 
banded  themselves  together  in  an  attempt  to  preserve  the 
“glory”  of  the  city  at  all  costs.  Suggestions  were  made  for 
making  Bombay  a  “city  State”,  to  be  controlled  directly  by 
New  Delhi.  It  was,  however,  decided  that  it  should  be  the 
capital  of  a  bilingual  state,  comprising  the  Marathi-speaking  and 
Gujarati-speaking  people.  Munshi  was  entirely  in  favour  of  such 
an  arrangement.  Speaking  in  Bombay  on  August  26,  1956,  he 
pleaded  for  ensuring  the  success  of  the  bilingual  state.  Since 
linguistic  homogeneity  was  considered  as  the  basic  criterion  for 
the  states’  reorganisation,  the  experiment  of  a  bilingual  Bombay 
province  was  bound  to  fail.  The  movement,  spearheaded  by  the 
Samyukta  Maharashtra  Parishad,  for  the  inclusion  of  the  city  in 
Maharashtra  became  irresistible.  Riots  in  Gujarat,  aimed  at 
securing  a  unilingual  state,  clinched  the  issue.  Maharashtra,  with 
Bombay  city  as  its  capital,  came  into  existance  in  May  1960  in 
spite  of  the  predilections  of  the  Union  Government. 

Munshi  was  unhappy  at  the  growing  linguistic 
intolerance  and  at  the  outbreak  of  violence  over  the 

*  Report  of  the  Commission  on  Maharashtra-Mysor e-Kerala 
Boundary  Disputes,  Volume  1,  1967 ,  p.  33. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

inter-state  border  disputes.  With  extreme  reluctance,  he  wrote 
to  Nehru  on  May  20,  1961,  calling  his  attention  to  these 
developments.  “The  root  cause”,  he  wrote,  “of  the  present 
trouble  in  the  country  has  been  the  inability  of  some  of  us,  who 
wanted  the  Indian  nation  to  be  united  and  strong,  to  foresee  the 
danger  of  linguism.”  In  most  states,  men  with  a  countrywide 
outlook  were  looked  down  upon  as  reactionaries.  Even 
Gujarat”,  he  complained,  “is  no  exception”  He  feared  that 
there  would  be  “linguistic  Balkani station  of  the  country  if 
“something  bold  and  effective”  was  not  done.  He  told  the 
Prime  Minister  that  he  was  eminently  suited  to  stem  the  rot.  He 
wrote:  “History  has  placed  you,  of  all  your  contemporaries  in 
the  country,  a  dosition  when  your  alons  can  take  bold  and 
detisive  action  to  implement  a  policy  of  integration”.  Munshi 
took  the  opportunity  of  discussing  the  problem  personally  with 
Nehru  when  they  met  on  July  2.  The  Prime  Minister  agreed 
that  the  situation  called  for  “serious  consideration”.  He  said  that 
he  would  first  convene  a  conference  of  the  Chief  Ministers  of 
states,  then  meet  political  party  leaders  and  finally,  confer  with 
independent  persons,  including  the  educationists.  A  beginning 
was  made  in  that  direction  in  the  last  week  of  September  and 
on  the  first  of  October,  but  nothing  came  out  of  it.  Munshi ’s 
earlier  contacts  with  distinguished  leaders  such  as  Acharya 
Vinoba  Bhave,  C.  Rajagopalchari,  Jaya  Prakash  Narayan, 
Pandit  Hriday  Nath  Kunzru,  Dr.  Syed  Mahmud  and 
Dr.  Lakshmanaswami  Mudaliar  did  not  also  yield  any 
tangible  results*. 

Munshi  became  disconsolate  because  the  splitting  of  the 
States  went  on  even  after  Nehru’s  death  in  1964.  He 
considered  it  midsummer  madness  to  divide  the  Punjab  even 

*  Pilgrimage  to  Freedom  by  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  1,  pp.  235,  240. 

Education  and  National  Language 


after  it  had  suffered  a  serious  amputation  in  1947.  The  Sikhs, 
who  spearheaded  the  demand  for  a  Punjabi  Saba,  formed  only 
35  per  cent  of  the  State’s  population.  The  States  Reorganisation 
Commission,  which  examined  the  question  in  depth,  declared 
that  the  demarcation  between  the  type  of  Hindi  and  the  Punjabi 
spoken  in  the  State  was  “more  theoretical  than  real”.  A  team  of 
jurists,  consisting  of  S.  R.  Das,  retired  Chief  Justice  of  India, 
M.  C.  Chagla,  retired  Chief  Justice  of  the  Bombay  High  Court, 
and  Sir  C.  P.  Ramaswami  Aiyar,  a  distinguished  lawyer  and 
former  Dewan  of  Travancore,  who  studied  the  Sikh  demand, 
found  no  substance  in  it.  But  the  Akalis  insisted  that  there  should 
be  a  second  partition  of  Punjab.  This  was  done  following  the 
recommendations  of  the  Punjab  Boundary  Commission  in 
1966.  The  future  of  Chandigarh,  now  the  joint  capital 
of  Punjab  and  Haryana,  and  of  the  prosperous  areas  of  Abohar 
and  Fazilka  has  become  a  running  sore  between  the  two  states. 
Writing  in  Swarajya  in  March  1970,  C.  Rajagopalachari  said  : 
“Every  major  error  leads  to  a  chain  of  difficulties.  The  greatest 
mistake  after  the  attainment  of  Independence,  a  mistake  that 
threatens  to  undo  all  our  worthy  ambitions,  was  the  reorganisation 
of  the  States  on  the  basis  of  language”.  Munshi  was  in  entire 
agreement  with  this  observation  of  India’s  veteran  leader. 

16-473  M  of  I&B/ND/81. 


Man  of  Letters 

MUNSHI  KNEW  MANY  LANGUAGES  but  he  wrote 
almost  entirely  in  English  and  Gujarati.  His  English  prose 
had  a  remarkable  resilience.  His  legal  and  political  writings  were 
noteworthy  for  their  simplicity  and  directness.  They  were 
essentially  utilitarian.  His  style  took  an  entirely  new  turn  when  he 
wrote  on  other  subjects.  There  he  could  rise  to  supreme  heights 
of  literary  excellence.  He  could  set  off  the  most  trifling  common 
places  in  the  most  superb  ornaments  of  language.  In  his  Gujarati 
works,  he  was  peerless  among  his  contemporaries.  Gujarati,  his 
mother  tongue,  nourished  his  mind  and  matter  as  the  mother’s 
breast  milk  builds  up  the  body  of  a  child.  He  could  delve  deep 
into  the  recesses  of  his  mind  in  search  of  new  thoughts  and 
ideas  and  give  expression  to  them  in  words  of  great  power  and 
beauty.  Munshi,  as  a  front-rank  lawyer  and  politician,  was  a 
busy  man  and  yet  he  was  copious  and  multifarious.  He  was  not 
only  copious  but  fast,  as  every  fertile  artist  must  be.  It  could  be 
said  of  him,  as  it  was  said  of  Shakespeare,  that  his  hand  and 
mind  went  together. 

The  literary  tradition  of  Gujarat  dates  back  to  the  early 
centuries  of  the  Christian  era  and  it  was  shared  by  Rajasthan 
and  Malwa  till  the  seventeenth  century.  Sanskrit  was  the 
dominant  language  till  the  region  was  ravaged  by  Alaud-din 
Khalji’s  armies  in  1297  A.D.  Poets  and  scholars  retreated  to 
rural  Gujarat  and  started  enlarging  and  enriching  the  local 
spoken  dialect.  The  era  of  resistance  that  followed  the  Muslim 

Man  of  Letters 


invasion  was  marked  by  the  creation  of  heroic  poetry  but  it  was 
largely  confined  to  bards  supported  by  assertive  and  affluent 
Kshatriya  families.  The  Bhakti  movement,  led  by  Mirabai, 
Surdas  and  Tulsidas,  however,  created  a  new  awakening 
throughout  north  India.  Mirabai,  who  lived  mostly  in  Chitor, 
became  the  symbol  of  the  new  religious  renaissance.  She  sang 
in  Western  Rajasthani  or  Gaurjari  and  Marwadi.  Her  songs, 
sung  with  deep  religious  fervour,  make  a  valuable  contribution 
to  the  Gujarati,  Rajasthani  and  Hindi  literature.  Narsi  Mehta,  the 
Saint  of  Junagadh,  was  another  shining  light  of  the  Bhakti 
movement  whose  well-known  devotional  song  “Vaishnava 

Janato . ”  became  a  part  of  Mahatma  Gandhi’s  daily 

prayer.  Great  poets  like  Samalbhat,  Premchand,  Akho  and 
Dayaram,  who  lived  in  the  seventeenth  and  eighteenth  centuries, 
broadbased  the  Gujarati  literature  by  their  writings.  A  good  deal 
of  secular  literature,  including  fiction  was  turned  out  during  this 
period.  In  the  subsequent  period,  Gujarati,  like  the  other  Indian 
languages,  was  overshadowed  by  English  which  made  its 
growth  slow.  The  advent  of  Mahatma  Gandhi  and  Munshi  in  the 
second  decade  of  this  century,  however,  gave  a  new  direction 
to  the  language  which,  being  liberated  from  the  conventional 
style,  went  closer  to  the  common  man. 

Like  his  English,  Mahatma  Gandhi’s  Gujarati  was  crisp, 
simple  and  idiomatic  and  could  be  understood  even  by  the  most 
unlettered  person.  Munshi’s  prose  had  all  these  qualities.  At  the 
same  time,  it  could  ri  se  to  the  summit  of  literary  splendour.  His 
scholarship,  his  all  -roundness  and  his  mental  restlessness 
contributed  to  the  most  astonishing  outflow  of  words.  He 
disdained  to  sit  in  the  ivory  tower,  elaborating  perfection  at  the 
rate  of  one  sentence  to  the  hour.  Words  flowed  from  his  pen  in 
torrents — limpid  and  powerful.  While  Mahatma  Gandhi  was 
mostly  concerned  with  his  experiments  with  truth,  his  gifted 
lieutenant  occupied  himself  with  the  description  of  his  fellow- 


K.  M.  Munshi 

men  in  all  their  naturalness.  The  fact  is  that  Munshi  was 
endowed  with  a  remarkable  capacity  for  observation.  Nothing 
escaped  his  attention.  What  we  normally  regard  as  trivial 
interested  him.  He  harnessed  both  the  “unconsidered  trifle”  and 
the  most  mighty  things  to  his  art  with  such  skill  and  intensity  that 
whatever  he  wrote  acquired  a  certain  distinctiveness  denied  to 
other  novelists  and  playwrights.  Munshi  was  essentially  a 
story-teller  and  was  not  a  pedantic  moralist,  always  prone  to 
find  fault  with  everything.  He  had  a  profound  knowledge  of  the 
human  beings  and  portrayed  their  strong  as  well  as  weak  points 
with  extreme  fidelity  and  clarity.  A  fellow-feeling  for  humanity  is 
indeed  the  dominant  note  of  his  literary  works  which  hold 
attention  because  they  depict  a  wide  range  of  human  experience. 
Being  essentially  urban-based,  he  avoided  depicting  rural  life. 

In  the  literary  world,  Munshi  had  his  exemplars,  Indian  and 
European.  Foremost  among  his  Indian  models  was 
Bankimchandra  Chatteiji  who  stimulated  his  romantic  imagination 
“to  go  in  search  of  new  worlds”.  He  pays  the  highest  tribute  to 
the  great  Bengali  novelist.  Chatteiji  was  the  “founder  of  modem 
novel,  humour  and  in  a  sense  the  seer  who  saw  modern 
nationalism  in  India  in  its  true  shape  and  colour”.  He  claimed 
that  he  humbly  carried  forward  the  great  heritage  which 
Bankimchandra  left  by  capturing  the  spirit  in  the  portrayal  of 
men  and  women  and  the  vision  of  Mother  India.  Dayanand 
Saras  wati,  the  founder  of  Ary  a  Samaj,  was  not  a  literary  figure, 
but  he  was  a  lion  of  a  man  who  upheld  the  timelessness  and  the 
sanctity  of  the  Vedas  and  sought  to  rekindle  Indian  pride  in  the 
great  Aryan  culture.  Originally  known  as  Mulshankar,  the 
Swami  hailed  from  Morvi  in  Gujarat.  Munshi  wrote  about 
him:  “He  restored  in  me  the  pride  of  ancient  race  and  undying 
culture”.  Sri  Aurobindo,  who  always  held  pride  of  place  in  his 
heart,  remained  the  lodestar  of  his  life.  Both  he  and  the  Swami 
greatly  influenced  Munshi’s  ideas  and  ideals.  Mahatma  Gandhi 

Man  of  Letters 


was,  of  couse,  his  path-finder  in  politics  and  in  many  other 
domains  of  human  activity. 

From  his  college  days  Munshi  had  been  a  diligent  student 
of  European  literature.  Alexander  Dumas,  Victor  Hugo,  Walter 
Scott,  Goethe,  Shelly,  Bernard  Shaw  and  H.  G.  Wells  had 
become  his  literary  godfathers.  At  that  time  he  had  no 
premonition  of  becoming  a  writer  either  in  English  or  in  Gujarati. 
But  the  rich  literary  fare  that  nourished  his  mind  and  widened  his 
intellectual  horizon  helped  him  to  shed  all  outmoded  ideas  and 
to  emerge  as  an  ardent  patriot.  The  writings  of  contemporary 
English  writers  thrilled  him. 

Munshi,  who  went  to  Bombay  in  June  1907  as  a  “puny, 
penniless,  friendless  new-comer”  to  make  a  career  at  the  Bar, 
never  thought  at  the  time  or  for  some  years  later  that  he  would 
eventually  emerge  as  a  luminous  star  in  the  firma  ment  of  Gujarati 
literature.  In  his  earlier  years,  he  had  made  no  regular  study  of  that 
language  and  his  busy  life  gave  him  no  opportunity  to  make  good 
this  deficiency.  But  by  then  he  had,  without  his  knowing  it, 
become  a  mental  giant  in  whom  a  terrifying  ability  lay  hidden. 
Responding  to  a  compelling  urge  to  write,  even  when  he  was 
preparing  for  the  Advocate’s  examination,  he  produced  a  story 
called  Mari  Kamala  which  was  published  in  a  Gujarati  journal 
called  Stribodh  in  1912.  He  wrote  it  under  the  pen-name  of 
Ghanashyam  Vyas  in  order  to  test  whether  he  could  write  well  in 
that  language.  Leading  literary  critics  applauded  his  maiden  effort 
and  encouraged  him  to  persevere  with  his  labours  in  the  cause  of 
Gujarati  literature.  In  the  following  year,  he  wrote,  with  less 
diffidence  but  without  discarding  his  literary  veil,  a  social  novel 
entitled  Ver-ni-Vasulat  (Revenge  Accomplished).  It  was  serialised 
in  the  weekly  Gujarati  and  brought  him,  a  struggling  lawyer,  the 
much  needed  remuneration  of  twenty  rupees  a  month. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

The  novel  became  an  instant  success.  Tanman,  the  heroine, 
at  once  became  the  darling  of  young  and  old,  while  young  men 
sighed  to  have  a  maiden  of  that  description  as  a  wife,  old  men 
debated  among  themselves  how  different  their  lives  would  have 
been  had  they  been  fortunate  to  have  such  a  mate  when  in  the  full 
tide  of  their  manhood.  Munshi  could  conjure  up  such  an  attractive 
character  because  he  had  developed  an  obsessional  yearning  for 
a  woman  like  that.  In  later  years,  he  wrote  thus  :  “I  will  tell  you 
of  a  little  maiden,  Tanman,  who  sprang  from  the  imagination  of  a 
young  lawyer;  she  was  the  dreambride  of  a  college  student;  for 
years  he  had  created  her  out  of  longing,  tears  and  despair”.  In  his 
novels  and  plays,  Munshi  painted  the  portraits  of  women,  not  just 
as  the  female  of  the  human  species,  but  as  man’s  equal  partner. 
His  resplendent  vision  of  his  motherland  guarded  him  against 
committing  the  mistake  of  looking  down  upon  woman  as  a  weak 
and  inferior  creature. 

He  wrote  “I  created  the  modern  woman  with  the  right  to 
love  as  she  wills  and  live  her  own  life;  the  man  who  is  prepared 
to  live  the  life  that  he  is  bom  to,  unabashed  and  triumphant;  the 
joys  of  man  and  woman,  the  joys  of  the  flesh  of  the  united  minds 
and  the  linked  wills;  the  joy  of  life  as  it  is  lived — richly, 
spontaneously  and  sinlessly;  the  vivid  worship  of  the  Mother  in 
which  our  old  time  lore  of  Bharat,  our  collective  urge  for  social 
synthesis  and  our  dominant  political  consciousness  were  fused 
and  transformed  into  the  triumphant  nationalism  of  the  day;  and 
above  all,  the  search  and  portrayal  of  beauty,  rising  above  and 
beyond  prudery,  convention,  tradition  and  the  transient  fashions 
of  generations”.*  Munshi  defended  love  by  classifying  it  as  one 
of  the  fundamental  passions  of  life.  It  sustained  and  transfigured 

*  Munshi:  Self-sculptor  by  Jayana  Seth,  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan,  1979, 
quoted  on  p.  3. 

Man  of  Letters 


life  and  moulded  destiny.  The  purpose  of  existence  would  find  its 
fulfilment  in  the  consummation  of  love. 

Munshi  did  not  venture  to  shed  his  anonymity  as  a  writer 
even  after  he  had  gained  a  firm  foothold  in  the  kingdom  of 
Gujarati  letters.  In  1916,  he  wrote  Patan-ni-Prabhuta 
(Greatness  of  Patan),  a  historical  novel,  the  first  of  a  great 
trilogy,  portraying  the  greatness  of  Gujarat  and  its  rulers, 
including  Siddaraja  Jayasimha,  an  outstanding  historical  figure 
whom  Munshi  was  never  tired  of  eulogising.  The  other  two 
novels  of  his  genre  were  Gujarat-no-Nath  (The  Lord  of 
Gujarat),  1917,  and  Rajadhiraj  (The  King  of  Kings),  1922. 
The  first  novel  took  Gujarat  by  storm,  but  it  brought  no 
happiness  to  its  still  disguised  author.  The  delineation  of  a  Jain 
monk’s  shady  doings  in  the  story  infuriated  some  of  the  touchy 
members  of  that  community  who  clamoured  to  have  him  tried 
in  a  court  of  law.  Munshi,  whose  main  concern  at  the  time  was 
to  get  on  with  his  career  as  a  budding  lawyer,  was  in  no  position 
to  face  the  unexpected  storm.  He  ran  to  his  benefactor, 
Jamietram,  the  influential  solicitor,  and  told  him  all  about  his  brief 
career  as  a  fiction- writer  in  Gujarati.  The  older  man  too  had 
been  bewitched  by  Tanman  in  the  novel,  Ver-ni-Vasulat.  Far 
from  thundering  at  the  shivering  young  man,  he  congratulated 
him  on  his  great  performance.  He  assured  Munshi  that  he  would 
take  the  responsibility  of  calming  the  outraged  feelings 
of  the  Jains. 

Munshi  had  a  highly  developed  historical  sense  which 
greatly  contributed  to  the  quickening  of  his  imaginative  sensibility. 
He  admired  Scott’s  Waverley  novels,  which  revived  the  old 
romance  in  which,  by  means  of  a  remarkable  ingenuity  of  form, 
the  adventures  of  a  typical  hero  of  fiction  were  cast  in  a 
historical  setting  and  set  about  with  portraits  of  real  personages. 
“Scott’s  best  work”,  says  a  British  writer,  “his  novels  of  Scottish 


K.  M.  Munshi 

character,  catch  more  than  half  their  excellence  from  the 
richness  of  colour  and  proportion  which  the  portraiture  of  the 
living  people  acquires  when  it  is  aided  by  historical  knowledge 
and  imagination”.  Munshi  revolutionised  Gujarati  fiction  by  using 
a  similar  technique  in  his  historical  novels.  He  was  a  resourceful 
romanticist  who  saw  to  it  that  the  doings  of  his  historical  figures 
had  contemporary  relevance.  “The  dead  pages  of  Gujarat’s 
history”,  writes  Dr.  Jayana  Seth,  “became  a  real  experience  for 
the  people  through  Munshi’s  novels.  The  trilogy,  providing 
heroic  models,  strongly  appealed  to  the  contemporary  Gujaratis. 
Some  of  the  characters  in  the  novels,  says  Narasimharao,  which 
were  mere  names  before,  have  now  found  a  “fond  and 
permanent  place  in  popular  imagination”.* 

Munshi  was  no  longer  under  the  necessity  of  writing  under 
a  concealed  name.  He  had  now  joined  the  select  band  of 
distinguished  writers  in  his  mother  tongue.  As  far  back  as  1921, 
Krishnalal  M.  Jhaveri  wrote  about  the  talented  newcomer  thus 
in  his  Further  Milestones  of  Gujarati  Literature :  “Recently  a 
novelist,  worthy  of  the  first  rank  among  the  writers  of  that  class, 
suddenly  blossomed  out.  Till  he  began  in  1911  with  some  short 
stories  and  published  them  with  great  hesitation,  concealing  his 
own  identity  under  the  significant  nom-de -plume,  Ghanashyam, 
no  one  suspected  that  he  had  latent  powers.  In  the  opinion  of 
many,  Kanaiyalal’s  style  is  always  suited  to  the  occasion.  There 
may  be  in  his  writings  a  recklessness  in  the  spelling  of  words; 
there  might  be  an  unconscious  echo  of  English  phrases 
translated  into  Gujarati,  but  on  the  whole,  the  style  is  virile, 
vigorous,  cultured  and  chaste”. 

Munshi  fully  deserved  this  high  tribute  from  a  veteran 
scholar.  In  the  previous  year,  1920,  he  had  published  another 

*  Op.  cit.  p.  34,  Narasimharao  was  a  Gujarati  literary  critic. 

Man  of  Letters 


historical  novel,  Prithvi  Vallabh  (The  Darling  of  the  World), 
which  transported  him  to  the  pinnacle  of  popularity.  It  is  a 
prose-poem  which  has  been  translated  into  Hindi,  Marathi, 
Kannada  and  Bengali,  besides  being  staged  and  screened. 
The  novel  is  derived  from  the  fragments  of  an  ancient 
versified  historical  romance  in  Gujarati.  Munja,  the  ruler 
of  the  Paramara  Empire,  whom  Munshi  dignifies  with  the  title  of 
Prithvi  Vallabh,  falls  in  love  with  the  widowed  sister  of  King 
Tailapa  of  Telangana,  who  takes  him  to  his  capital  as  his 
captive.  Mrinaldevi  is  a  mettlesome  and  self-willed  woman  who 
is  senior  in  age  to  the  royal  prisoner.  She  goes  to  him 
determined  to  subdue  him  to  her  imperious  will,  but  finds  that 
his  personality  and  matchless  equanimity  of  temper  even  in  his 
degraded  condition  are  overwhelming.  His  composure  and 
fortitude  even  amidst  incredible  suffering,  astonish  her,  forcing 
her  to  fall  at  his  feet.  His  tribulations  come  to  an  end  when  the 
King  orders  his  body  to  be  trampled  under  an  elephants’  foot. 
Munshi  also  got  some  brickbats  for  his  superb  creation. 
Mahatma  Gandhi  did  not  like  it.  Munshi  writes:  “To  Gandhiji, 
not  familiar  with  what  is  art  for  art’s  sake,”  this  book  was 
suggested  as  a  specimen  of  the  author’s  creative  writing.  He 
read  it  and  severely  criticised  Munshi 

Munshi  wrote  not  only  in  praise  of  Gujarat’s  greatness  and 
glory  but  also  about  its  downfall.  Two  novels,  Jay  Somnath 
(Hail  Somnath)  and  Bhagna  Paduka  (The  Broken  Sandals) 
belong  to  the  later  category.  Both  were  written  when  he  had 
reached  the  peak  of  his  literary  renown,  the  first  in  1940  and  the 
second  in  1948.  The  technique  of  these  later  works  is  different 
while  the  style  is  more  mellowed  and  resilient.  It  is  the  story  of 
the  sack  of  the  great  Temple  of  Somnath  by  Mahmud  of  Ghazni 
in  January  1025  A.D.  The  immense  but  ill-defended  wealth  of 
Indian  temples  drew  Mahmud  to  India  as  many  as  seventeen 


K.  M.  Munshi 

times,  which  proved  the  fatal  weakness  of  the  country’s 
defences.  Munshi  has,  however,  painted  a  shining  picture 
of  the  heroic  defence  of  the  temple  by  the  King  of  Gujarat, 
his  dependent  aristocracy  and  his  soldiers.  He  also  calls 
our  attention  to  the  spiritual  eminence  of  Ganga-sarvagna  the 
high  priest,  and  to  the  religious  ecstasy  of  Chaula,  the  temple 
dancer.  He  praises  Sultan  Mahmud’s  tenacity  of  purpose  and 
his  will  to  succeed. 

Bhagna  Paduka  rounds  off  Munshi ’s  great  novels  on 
Chalukyan  Gujarat.  In  1297  A.D.,  Ala-ud-din  Khalji,  the  man 
who  “shed  more  innocent  blood  than  ever  Pharaoh  was  guilty 
of”,  overran  Gujarat  and  destroyed  its  independent  sovereignty. 
His  favourite  deputy,  Malik  Naib  Kafur,  a  converted  eunuch, 
was  directed  to  humble  Hindu  manhood  in  the  South.  Munshi 
describes  the  Sultan’s  court  in  the  novel  “in  light  but  effective 
vignettes”  in  which  the  armed  might  of  the  invader  is  contrasted 
with  “the  decadence  of  Chalukyan  Gujarat”*.  To  help  the 
reader  to  overcome  the  heaviness  of  his  heart  over  the  fallen 
eminence  of  the  Gujarat  rulers,  the  author  weaves  a  romance 
between  the  son  of  the  high  priest  of  a  king  and  a  dancing  girl. 
The  young  man  is  known  as  Bada  Maharaj  and  his  beloved  is 
called  Anangana.  Hindu  treachery,  the  futile  heroism 
of  the  defenders  of  the  shrines  and  homes  of  Gujarat,  the  mass 
immolation  of  women  and  the  destruction  and 
desolation  that  followed  Muslim  invasion  are  described  with  a 
realism  equal  to  that  of  the  account  of  the  man  on  the  spot. 

B  hag  aw  an  Kautilya  (Lord  Kautilya),  an  earlier 
historical  novel,  was  written  in  1923.  Here  the  author  has 
attempted  to  present  a  refreshingly  new  portrait  of  Kautilya, 

*  Munshi:His  Art  and  Work'.Man  of  Letter,  Volume  III, 
pp.  90,  91. 

Man  of  Letters 


the  celebrated  minister  of  Chandragupta  Maurya  and  author  of 
Arthasastra,  the  well-known  treatise  on  state-craft. 
He  rejects  the  charge  that  the  great  statesman  was  guilty  of 
Machiavellianism.  Kautilya's  sole  object  was  to  end  the 
unpopular  rule  of  the  Nandas  and  to  install  Chandragupta,  his 
friend,  on  the  imperial  throne.  A  reviewer  of  the  novel  writes: 
“Mr.  Munshi  is  not  only  a  careful  student  of  the  human  mind  and 
its  motives  but  is  also  an  artistic  lover  of  nature.  His  description 
of  Naimisharanya,  coupled  with  that  of  the  ashram  of  Rishi 

Bhadraksha,  is  as  picturesque  as  it  is  beautiful  .  He 

(Chanakya)  saw  that  mere  asceticism  without  culture  was 
useless,  mere  knowledge  without  self-control  a  poor  exhibition. 
Both  culture  and  control  were  linked  together  by  the  power  of 
the  concentrate  thought  of  the  seer”. 

Munshi  wrote  in  all  branches  of  literature  except  poetry. 
His  contribution  to  fiction  by  drawing  abundantly  from  the 
historical  past  was  widely  recognised.  The  Dictionary  of 
Oriental  Literatures  says:  “The  second  structure  was  developed 
by  K.  M.  Munshi,  who  transformed  the  facts  of  India’s  past  into 
a  movement  of  its  basic  history.  Thus,  his,  Patan-ni-Prabhuta 
(Greatness  of  Patan)  truly  begins  the  Gujarati  historical  novel”. 
Munshi  had  a  passionate  attachment  to  India’s  past  and 
harnessed  his  great  gifts  as  a  story-teller  to  stimulate  the 
nationalism  of  his  contemporaries  by  calling  attention  to  its 
glorious  aspects.  He  used  this  medium  with  superb  skill  in  his 
four- act  play,  Dhruvaswaminidevi  published  in  1929. 

The  play  deals  with  the  Gupta  period,  justly  described  as 
India’s  Augustan  Age.  Samudragupta  (335-376  A.D.),  who 
governed  the  biggest  empire  since  the  days  of  Asoka, 
administered  his  charge  for  more  than  forty  years  with  such 
foresight  and  imagination  that  he  has  rightly  been  acclaimed  as 
a  model  monarch,  th  tflos  re  gum,  and  as  one  of  the  finest  men 


K.  M.  Munshi 

that  ever  adorned  the  Indian  throne.  The  play,  however,  deals 
with  the  incompetent  King  Ramagupta,  his  great  Queen, 
Dhruvadevi,  and  his  brother,  Chandragupta.  The  woman  is 
noble,  urbane  and  patriotic  and  abhors  the  levity  and  pusillanimity 
of  her  husband.  His  weakness  encourages  the  enemy  of  the 
Empire,  Mahakshatrap  Rudraman,  to  invade  his  realm. 
Dhruvadevi  and  Chandragupta  are  drawn  towards  each  other 
irresistibly  and  Ramagupta  is  done  away  with  when  he 
discovers  this.  The  younger  man  fights  valiantly  against  the 
invading  enemy  and  saves  the  Empire  from  dissolution.  Sage 
Yajnavalkya  permits  him  to  marry  the  lady.  Commenting  on  this 
drama,  Dr.  Jayana  Seth  says  that  it  “reveals  Munshi’s  most 
positive  and  least  negative  traits:  action  and  conflict,  progenitors 
of  dramatic  tension,  hold  the  attention  of  the  audience  and  the 
readers  alike”. 

In  depicting  the  social  life  of  his  people,  Munshi  showed 
the  same  perception  that  marked  his  historical  novels.  He  had 
proved  his  creative  abilities  in  his  first  social  novel,  Verni- 
Vasulat  which,  as  we  saw  earlier,  achieved  immediate  popularity. 
His  novel,  Konk  Vano?  (Whose  Fault?),  published  in  1915,  is 
an  indignant  protest  against  such  evils  as  forced  widowhood, 
early  marriage  of  girls,  and  caste  cruelties.  He  exposes  man’s 
inhumanity  to  man  in  the  Hindu  society  by  unfolding  the  sad 
story  of  Mani,  a  child  widow.  Svapna  drishta  (The  visionary), 
1924,  is  a  record  of  his  own  reactions  to  the  political 
happenings  in  India  since  the  beginning  of  the  first  decade  of  this 
century.  He  gives  himself  the  name  of  Sudarshan  who  plays  the 
role  of  a  hero  in  the  novel.  Stirring  popular  movements  such  as 
the  campaign  against  Lord  Curzon’s  arbitrary  partition  of 
Bengal  in  1905  and  the  countrywide  boycott  of  foreign  goods 
are  described  with  consummate  skill  and  vividness.  Sneha 
Sambhrarna  (Confusion  of  Love),  written  in  1931,  a  part  of 
which  was  dramatised  as  Pidagrast  Professor  reveals  the 

Man  of  Letters 


author  in  a  “rollicking,  boisterous  mood”.  It  is  the  story  of  an 
amorous  professor  and  a  boastful  man  whose  respective  wives 
are  disgusted  with  the  behaviour  of  their  husbands.  Khange 
Karbhari  is  another  humorous  satire.  In  1957-58,  Munshi 
published  a  three  volume  novel  called  Tapasvini  (The  Lady 
Sage)  which  is  a  detailed  description  of  the  social  and  political 
evolution  of  Gujarat  since  the  Great  Revolt  of  1857. 

Munshi  was  a  prolific  writer.  He  wrote  thirteen  plays,  five 
of  which  were  mythological,  depicting  the  greatness  of  the 
Aryan  culture.  In  1953,  he  wrote  a  fantasy  Vah  re  Men  Vah 
(Kudos  to  Me).  It  is  indeed  impossible  to  make  even  a  brief 
reference  to  everything  he  wrote.  His  literary  output  included 
historical  biography,  his  travels  abroad,  literary  criticism,  and 
scholarly  essays  on  a  wide  variety  of  subjects.  His  varied 
writings  in  Gujarati  have  been  listed  into  fifty-six  items.  Before 
India’s  independence,  he  wrote  thirteen  novels,  fourteen  dramas 
and  twenty  short  stories.  In  the  post-independence  period, 
covering  twenty-four  years  till  his  deat  in  1971,  he  published 
three  novels,  one  play  and  a  fantasy.  Much  of  his  production  in 
the  second  period  was  non-fictional  and  related  to  biography, 
autobiography,  polit  cs,  history  and  culture. 

Both  in  volume  and  value,  Munshi’s  contribution  to  the 
Gujarati  literature  is  massive  and  towering.  Apart  from  the  fact 
that  his  writings  are  marked  by  a  genuine  fluency  in  style  and 
fancy,  they  defy  the  categories.  Munshi  was  indeed  a  remarkable 
mixture  of  unquenchable  romantic  and  a  man-on-the-spot 
realist.  He  was  a  patriot  with  a  deep  and  abiding  love  for  the 
immemorial  pieties  and  culture  of  his  motherland.  At  the  same 
time,  he  abhorred  the  undesirable  accretions  to  them  and 
condemned  them  with  his  trenchant  pen.  Effectiveness  was  the 
Alpha  and  Omega  of  his  style.  He  was  a  writer  who  dealt  in  first 
principles,  and  dealers  in  first  principles  cannot  be  taken  for 


K.  M.  Munshi 

granted.  He  said  what  he  thought  and  was  congenitally 
incapable  of  saying  anything  else.  Perhaps,  next  only  to 
Mahatma  Gandhi,  he  created  in  Gujarat  a  new  consciousness 
which  he  called  Asmita.  The  Gujaratis,  no  matter  to  which 
station  in  life  they  belonged,  were  not  slow  in  taking  him  to  their 
heart.  He  was  the  most  popular  and  esteemed  writer  in  their 
language  and  toward  over  his  contemporaries  like  a  Titan.  He 
has  earned  a  deathless  name  in  the  Gujarati  literature.  He 
laboured  hard  in  stimulating  the  study  of  Gujarati  literature  and 
played  a  prominent  part  in  the  establishment  of  the  Gujarati 
Sahitya  Parishad,  of  which  he  remained  President  for  many 
years.  He  was  also  an  inspirer  and  the  mainstay  of  other 
institutions  with  similar  objectives.  In  1922,  when  the  Gujarati 
Literary  Society  was  founded,  he  started  an  illustrated  monthly 
called  Gujarat  with  himself  as  its  Joint  Editor.  His  services  to 
the  Gujarati  language  and  literature  are  truly  inestimable. 

Munshi  began  his  career  as  a  writer  in  English  with 
extreme  diffidence.  Having  had  his  university  education  in  a 
mofussil  college,  he  at  first  wondered  whether  the  “foreign 
tongue’'  would  ever  become  amenable  to  him.  He  was, 
however,  not  alone  in  entertaining  such  fears.  Even  Mahatma 
Gandhi  who,  according  to  H.  A.  L.  Fisher,  the  eminent  historian 
of  Europe,  had  “a  distinguished  command  of  the  English 
language”,  complained  that  it  was  no  pleasure  for  him  to  write 
in  that  language.  The  Rt.  Hon.  V.  S.  Srinivasa  Sastri  was  hailed 
as  an  outstanding  orator  in  English  in  the  British  Empire,  but  he 
too  was  sometimes  assailed  by  the  unfounded  fear  of  inadequacy. 
Munshi  had  no  reason  at  all  to  be  defeatist  on  this  issue.  He  had 
read  English  authors  deeply  and  extensively  and  it  was  no 
difficult  task  for  a  man  of  his  intelligence  and  quick  perception 
to  use  the  language  as  an  effective  vehicle  for  his  thoughts. 
Necessity  drove  away  all  his  doubts  and  hesitations  and  made 
him  an  accomplished  speaker  both  in  the  law-courts  and  on  the 

Man  of  Letters 


platform.  He  was  also  a  man  with  a  message  to  convey  about 
the  greatness  of  his  country’s  heritage.  How  could  he  reach  a 
national  and  international  audience  if  not  through  the  medium  of 
English?  Perhaps,  he  could  not  master  the  subtleties  of  the 
language  as  well  as  he  could  in  his  own  mother  tongue,  but  his 
command  over  it  was  impressive  and  much  more  than  sufficient 
for  all  practical  purposes. 

Munshi  readily  acknowledged  India’s  indebtedness  to 
foreign  scholarship  for  proclaiming  the  greatness  of  her  civilization 
to  the  world.  But  he  wanted  both  Indians  and  foreigners  to  see 
her  greatness  through  Indian  eyes.  Most  of  the  books  on  Indian 
history  failed  to  impress  him.  He  undertook  the  stupendous  task 
of  getting  it  written  by  a  band  of  seasoned  Indian  historians  and 
scholars.  The  outcome  is  The  History  and  Culture  of  the 
Indian  People  in  eleven  volumes,  each  volume  running  into 
many  hundreds  of  pages.  In  his  Foreword  to  the  first  volume, 
dealing  with  the  Vedic  period,  he  wrote  :  “In  the  course  of  my 
studies  I  had  long  felt  the  inadequacy  of  our  so-called  Indian 
histories.  For  many  years,  therefore,  I  was  planning  an 
elaborate  history  of  India  in  order  not  only  that  India’s  past 
might  be  described  by  her  sons,  but  also  that  the  world  might 
catch  a  glimpse  of  her  soul  as  Indians  see  it”.  It  is  a  magnificent 
effort  begun  in  1951  and  completed  in  1969  and  covers  the 
country’s  history  from  the  earliest  known  period  till  the  exit  of 
the  British  from  its  soil  in  August  1947.  The  burden  was  borne 
by  Dr.  R.  C.  Majumdar,  the  doyen  of  Indian  historians,  as 
General  Editor,  who  was  assisted  by  a  team  of  talented  writers. 
Commenting  on  the  first  volume,  The  Vedic  Age,  The  Times 
Literary  Supplement,  London,  says:  “This  history  unlike  its 
predecessors  is  first  and  foremost  a  history  of  India  and  of  her 
people  rather  than  a  history  of  those  who  have  from  time  to  time 
invaded  her . The  standard,  in  a  word,  is  very  high.” 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Munshi  was  keen  that  the  greatness  of  Gujarat  must  also 
be  made  known  to  the  wider  world.  In  1935,  he  published 
Gujarata  and  its  Literature,  which  presented  to  the  English- 
reading  public  an  authentic  and  authoritative  history  of  Gujarati 
literature  from  the  earliest  times.  Many  of  its  chapters  were 
originally  intended  to  be  delivered  as  extension  lectures  under 
the  auspices  of  the  Post-graduate  Studies,  Department  of 
Calcutta  University,  but  this  plan  did  not  materialise  as  Munshi 
was  caught  in  the  vortex  of  the  civil  disobedience  movement. 
The  twenty-one-chapter  volume,  acclaimed  as  “the  best  of  its 
kind  both  in  its  attempt  and  achievement”,  carries  the  Foreword 
of  Mahatma  Gandhi.  Professor  A.  B.  Keith,  who  wrote  so 
much  about  India’s  ancient  civilization  and  the  constitutional 
reforms  introduced  by  the  British  in  this  country,  was  all  praise 
for  Munshi’s  magnificent  performance.  He  wrote:  “It  is  not 
merely  pioneer  work,  but  the  field  is  vast  and  the  languages 
used  range  from  Sanskrit  through  Prakrit  and  Apabhramsha  to 
the  old  and  modern  Gujarati,  demanding  an  emdition  remarkable 
in  one  who  has  given  so  much  time  to  public  service  and  who 
himself  is  an  outstanding  author,  whose  creative  art  (in  the 
words  of  Dr.  Taraporevala)  has  brought  life  and  beauty  to 
Gujarati  fiction  and  drama  and  whose  philosophy  of  life  has 
given  to  Gujarata  both  joy  and  strength”. 

Mulraj  Solanki  was  among  Munshi’s  idolised  historical 
figures.  The  millennial  celebrations  of  the  ruler’s  assumption  of 
the  sovereignty  of  Anahilwad  Patan  were  welcomed  by  him  to 
plan  the  publication  of  a  multi-volume  work  on  the  greatness  of 
Gujarat.  The  task  was  entrusted  by  the  Gujarat  Sahitya 
Parishad  to  the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan,  of  which  he  was  the 
founder.  The  original  project  of  bringing  out  four  volumes  never 
materialised.  As  General  Editor,  Munshi  found  that  he  had  to 
bear  almost  the  entire  burden  of  the  undertaking.  The  volume, 
The  Imperial  Gurjaras,  was  entirely  written  by  him.  Since 

Man  of  Letters 


other  scholars  did  not  evince  much  interest  in  the  scheme,  it  fell 
to  Munshi  to  revise  it  thoroughly.  This  resulted  in  the  publication 
of  The  Glory  That  Was  Gurjar  Desha,  the  first  volume  of 
which  was  brought  out  in  1943  and  the  second  in  the  following 
year.  Both  were  revised  in  1954.  Commenting  on  these  volumes 
and  on  Munshi ’s  earlier  book  on  Gujarati  literature,  Dr.  K.  R. 
Srinivasa  Iyengar,  former  Head  of  the  Department  of  English, 
Andhra  University,  says  :  tkA  great  deal  of  industry,  scholarship 
and  sensitive  interpretation  has  gone  into  these  impressive 
cultural  histories,  and  his  lucid  exposition  and  clarity  of 
expression  make  the  perusal  of  these  books  both  a  pleasure 
and  an  instruction”.  Munshi,  who  had  decided  that  the 
reconstruction  of  the  Somnath  shrine  should  become  an  integral 
part  of  post-independence  cultural  activity  and  had  the  satisfaction 
of  realising  his  long-cherished  dream,  wrote  a  masterly  book  on 
the  subject  in  1951  and  called  it  Somnath,  the  Shrine  Eternal 
Enough  has  already  been  written  on  this  subject  in  the  earlier 
pages  of  this  book.  Munshi’ s  deep  commitment  to  Indian 
culture  in  its  varied  aspects  is  exemplified  in  his  book,  The  Saga 
of  Indian  Sculpture,  which  presents  a  vivid  picture  of  the 
country’s  achievements  in  the  realm  of  plastic  arts. 

Munshi  wrote  a  good  deal  on  political  topics.  He  recorded 
his  allegiance  to  Mahatma  Gandhi’s  leadership  in  two  books  I 
Follow  the  Mahatma  and  Gandhi,  the  Master,  the  former 
written  in  1940  and  the  latter  in  1948,  the  year  of  the 
Mahatma’s  martyrdom.  The  Muslim  League’s  campaign  for 
India’s  partition,  which  gathered  momentum  as  the  Second 
World  War  progressed,  caused  him  much  anguish,  out  of  which 
arose  in  1 942  the  book,  Akhand  Hindustan.  Here  he  made  a 
well  reasoned  and  impassioned  plea  for  not  attempting  the 
subversion  of  his  dearly-loved  motherland’s  territorial  integrity. 
The  End  of  an  Era,  published  in  1957,  is  a  record  of  the 
author’s  experience  in  Hyderabad  soon  alter  national 


K.  M.  Munshi 

independence  as  India’s  representative  there.  The  intransigent 
attitude  of  the  Nizam  to  the  integration  of  the  State  with  the  rest 
of  India  and  the  Razakar  violence,  to  which  a  detailed  reference 
has  been  made  in  an  earlier  chapter,  are  fully  brought  out  in  this 
volume.  Munshi’s  appraisal  of  British  rule  was  fair  and  realistic. 
He  heartily  applauded  its  positive  achievements,  especially  its 
gift  of  the  rule  of  law  to  the  Indian  people,  but  he  was  an 
unsparing  critic  of  its  economic  policy  which  grievously 
improverished  the  country  by  draing  off  its  resources.  He 
published  in  1946  his  views  on  this  subject  in  his  book,  The 
Ruin  that  Britain  Wrought. 

Age  never  wearied  this  remarkable  man,  to  whom  inaction 
was  worse  than  death.  In  the  post-independence  period,  his 
pen  remained  as  busy  as  before.  He  wrote  much  on  both 
political  and  non-political  topics.  Many  of  his  speeches  and 
writing  as  Minister  and  Governor  have  been  brought  together 
and  published  in  book  form.  Sparks  from  a  Governor's  Anvil, 
1956 ,  in  two  volumes  is  a  noteworthy  example  of  this  species 
of  his  writings.  Munshi  was  also  an  accomplished  journalist, 
who  edited  for  about  a  decade  the  weekly  journal,  The  Social 
Welfare  and  its  successor,  The  New  Democrat.  His  journalistic 
activity  had  begun  long  before  India’s  liberation.  He  stimulated 
deeper  interest  in  the  Bhavan ’s  Journal,  a  fortnightly  organ  of 
the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan,  through  his  feature,  “Kulapati’s 
Letters”,  which  was  eagerly  read.  There  the  author  discussed  a 
wide  variety  of  subjects  in  a  homely  style  which  at  once  brought 
his  numerous  readers  closer  to  him.  The  rapport  between  him 
and  them  was  perfect. 

He  also  laid  the  English  reading  public  under  a  deep  debt 
of  gratitude  by  starting  the  “Bhavan’s  Book  University”  under 
the  general  editorship  of  himself  and  N.  Chandrasekhara  Aiyer, 
and  after  him,  R.  R.  Diwakar.  In  his  Preface  to  the  series  on 

Man  of  Letters 


October  3,  1951,  Munshi  explained  that  it  had  been  started  to 
provide  “higher  education”  to  the  reading  public  by  laying 
emphasis  on  such  “literature  as  revealed  the  deeper  impulsions 
of  India”.  For  a  considerable  time,  the  books  were  sold  at  an 
incredibly  low  price  of  Rs.  1.75  per  copy  so  that  an  increasing 
number  of  people  could  gain  ready  access  to  a  truly  enlightening 
literature.  (The  price  was  later  raised  to  Rs.  2.50  which  was 
certainly  not  much  for  a  copy  of  over  two  hundred  pages). 
Munshi  held  that  “through  such  books  alone  the  harmonies 
underlying  true  culture”,  would  “one  day  reconcile  the  disorders 
of  modern  life”.  The  series  is  undoubtedly  a  landmark  in  the 
history  of  Indian  publishing.  His  last  major  contribution  to  the 
Indian  political  literature  consists  of  two  volumes  entitled 
Pilgrimage  to  Freedom,  embodying  the  Indian  constitutional 
documents  from  1902  to  1950.  The  first  volume  is  in  the  nature 
of  an  introduction  to  these  documents.  Known  as  “Munshi 
Papers”,  the  volumes  are  widely  consulted  by  students  of  Indian 
constitutional  affairs. 

It  is  difficult  to  assess  the  literary  achievements  of 
Munshi  within  the  brief  compass  of  a  chapter.  He  wrote  so 
much  and  on  such  a  bewildering  variety  of  subjects  that  even  a 
passing  reference  to  each  of  his  works  would  demand 
considerable  space.  He  was  an  Olympian  in  the  kingdom  of 
Gujarati  letters.  He  had  drunk  deep  from  the  founts  of  Western 
literature  and  used  his  vast  knowledge  to  bring  a  certain 
newness  and  freshness  to  bear  on  his  Gujarati  writings.  He 
explored  new  literary  areas,  as  exemplified  by  his  historical 
romances,  and  adopted  new  techniques  of  expression  that 
helped  to  shorten  the  distance  between  the  cultivated  reader 
and  his  uninstructed  counterpart.  He  has  won  a  secure  place  in 
Gujarati  literature.  Some  of  his  writings  in  English  have  also  an 
imperishable  quality.  His  books  on  Gujarat  are  seminal  and  are, 


K.  M.  Munshi 

therefore,  durable.  Munshi  was  a  man  with  many  irons  in  the  fire 
and  yet  he  could  effortlessly  win  immortality  in  literature. 
Overflowing  with  energy,  he  never  regarded  either  law  or 
politics  as  a  jealous  mistress. 

The  Bhavan 

MUNSHI  WAS  A  DREAMER  but  he  had  the  wisdom 
and  the  ability  to  translate  his  dreams  into  deeds.  He  was 
a  practical  idealist  par  excellence.  His  devotion  to  India’s 
ancient  civilization  was  absolute.  It  was  based  on  deep  study 
and  reflection  and  on  the  conviction  of  the  relevance  of  the  past 
to  the  present.  He  shared  the  belief  that  one  had  to  take  a  peep 
into  the  past  in  order  to  draw  inspiration  for  the  present  and  to 
make  plans  for  the  future.  Like  all  discerning  persons,  he  saw 
a  living  reality  in  India’s  past.  Ancient  Indians  were  men  of 
gigantic  stature.  By  their  achievements  they  took  their  motherland 
ahead  of  other  countries.  Language  and  literature,  art  and 
architecture,  science,  including  metallurgy  and  medicine,  were 
developed  to  their  highest  pitch  of  excellence.  India’s  offerings 
to  human  knowledge  were  indeed  many,  the  most  precious  and 
conspicuous  one  among  them  being  the  invention  of  the  decimal 
system.  The  greatest  Indian  astronomer  and  mathematician, 
Aryabhata,  whose  name  has  now  become  familiar  to  millions  of 
our  countrymen  by  naming  a  space  research  satellite  after  him, 
discussed  with  profound  understanding  such  abstruse  subjects 
as  quadratic  equations,  besides  announcing  the  roundness  of  the 
earth  and  its  diurnal  revolution  on  its  axis  in  daring  anticipation 
of  Renaissance  science. 

Great  progress  was  also  made  in  the  science  of  medicine 
and,  as  far  back  as  the  sixth  century  B.  C.,  Hindu  physicians 


K.  M.  Munshi 

were  able  to  describe  a  large  number  of  delicate  parts  of  the 
anatomy  hidden  from  the  eye  with  amazing  clarity  and 
confidence.  “The  ancient  Hindus”,  says  an  authority,  “performed 
almost  every  major  operation  except  ligation  of  the  arteries”. 
The  surgeons  knew  the  use  of  one  hundred  and  twenty-one 
surgical  instmments.  Both  Sushruta  and  Charaka  have  recorded 
that  there  were  medicines  to  induce  insensibility  to  pain.  Will 
Durant  quotes  an  authority  as  saying  that  in  927  A.  D.  two 
surgeons  trepanned  the  skull  of  a  king  and  made  him  insensitive 
to  the  operation  by  administering  a  drug  called  samohini.  In 
many  other  departments  of  human  activity,  Indians  had  forged 
ahead  of  the  rest  of  mankind.  We  cannot  ignore  these  facts 
because  his  country’s  ancient  civilization  differs  from  those  of 
Egypt,  Mesopotamia  and  Greece  in  the  sense  that  its  traditions 
have  been  preserved  without  a  break  down  to  the  present  day. 
The  masses  of  Egypt  and  Iraq  had  no  knowledge  of  the 
achievements  of  their  ancestors  until  the  spade  of  the 
archaeologist  unearthed  their  splendour.  The  common  man  in 
Greece  had  also  little  knowledge  of  the  glory  of  Periclean 
Athens.  It  has  never  been  so  with  India  where  the  earliest 
European  visitors  were  astonished  to  find  a  culture  that  was  not 
only  continuous  but  fully  conscious  of  its  antiquity.  Indeed,  India 
and  China  are  the  only  two  countries  in  the  world  which  have 
the  oldest  continuous  cultural  traditions. 

Munshi  was,  therefore,  anxious  to  harness  this  great 
heritage  to  the  galvanization  of  his  countrymen.  He  made  a 
pointed  reference  to  the  relevance  of  the  past  to  the  present 
while  delivering  his  inaugural  address  at  the  bi-decennial 
celebration  of  the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan  on  February  10, 
1957.  “We  must  not”,  he  said,  “forget  even  for  a  moment  that 
the  roots  of  Indian  vitality  are  imbedded  in  its  cultural  and 
spiritual  heritage.  Its  life  may  appear  to  change  from  generation 
to  generation;  but  its  basic  continuity  persists  through  a  healthy 

The  Bhavan 


adjustment  between  necessary  development  and  persistent 
continuity”.  He  did  not  spurn  material  advance  as  sterile.  On  the 
contrary,  he  insisted  that  Indians  must  move  with  the  times  and 
should  in  fact  try  to  be  one  lap  ahead  of  others  in  science  and 
technology.  But  there  was  “no  reason  why  we  should  be  untme 
to  the  heritage  of  Vyas,  Valmiki  and  Kalidas,  or  forget  the 
message  of  the  Bhagavad  Gita  * 

Since  1923,  Munshi  had  been  seriously  thinking  of  giving 
an  institutional  foundation  to  his  ideas  and  ideals.  The  times 
were,  however,  not  propitious  for  any  such  undertaking.  He 
was  an  active  participant  in  Mahatma  Gandhi’s  civil  disobedience 
movement  and  was  often  removed  from  the  scene  of  his 
activities.  Such  an  ambitious  project  needed  a  long  period  of 
peace  and  tranquillity  as  well  as  money.  The  last-named 
requirement  did  not,  however,  worry  him  too  much.  He  was  not 
a  moneyed  man  himself  and  was  certainly  in  no  position  to 
finance  his  project,  but  he  fully  shared  the  Gladstonian  belief 
that  worthy  causes  need  not  suffer  for  want  of  money.  He  was 
never  in  doubt  about  what  he  called  the  “noble  spontaneity”  of 
the  affluent  classes  in  supporting  his  cause.  Congress  acceptance 
of  the  responsibilities  of  Government  in  1937  promised  a 
reasonably  long  break  from  the  convulsive  Gandhian  challenges 
to  authority.  As  a  member  of  the  Congress  Government  in 
Bombay,  Munshi  hoped  to  do  substantial  public  work  in 
addition  to  his  ministerial  responsibilities. 

His  long-cherished  aim  of  founding  a  cultural  institution 
became  a  reality  with  the  establishment  of  the  Bharatiya  Vidya 
Bhavan  on  November  7,  1938.  Speaking  on  the  occasion,  he 

*  Sparks  from  a  Governor’s  Anvil  by  Dr.  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  I, 
pp.  559-61. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

said:  “For  many  years,  it  has  been  the  dream  of  the  Sahitya 
Sansad  to  crystallise  its  work  by  creating  a  centre  in  which  the 
ancient  learning  and  modem  intellectual  aspirations  of  this  land 
could  combine  to  create  a  new  literature,  a  new  history  and  a 
new  culture.  The  Bhavan  will  be  a  new  association  which  will 
organise  active  centres  where  ancient  Aryan  learning  can  be 
studied  and  where  modem  Indian  culture  will  be  provided  with 
a  historical  background”.  Three  persons  came  together  and 
resolved  to  nurse  the  infant  institution  till  it  grew  into  an 
outstanding  symbol  of  the  intellectual,  literary,  educational, 
ethical,  spiritual  and  cultural  life  of  India.  They  were  the  founder 
himself,  Mrs.  Lilavati  Munshi  and  Sir  Harsidbhai  Divatia.  From 
the  first,  Mrs.  Munshi  became  a  tower  of  strength  to  her 
husband.  In  a  warm  tribute  to  her,  he  wrote:  “She  made  the  idea 
of  the  Bhavan  her  own  from  the  time  it  was  conceived.  There 
is  not  an  activity  in  connection  with  it  with  which  she  has  not 
identified  herself;  not  a  collection  made,  to  which  her  labours 
have  not  contributed  a  substantial  quota  of  effort;  not  a  building, 
of  which  she  has  not  directed  the  designing,  the  execution,  the 
completion  and  the  equipment.  There  has  not  been  a  moment  of 
her  life  when  she  has  not  been  thinking  in  terms  of  its  growth 
and  development”.  As  for  Munshi  himself,  he  had  made  the 
success  of  the  Bhavan  the  mission  of  his  life. 

The  institution  began  its  eventful  career  in  a  small  way 
at  Andheri,  a  suburb  of  Bombay.  Munshi,  who  believed  that 
Sanskrit  provided  the  master-key  to  the  treasure-house  of 
India’s  ancient  wisdom,  laid  special  emphasis  on  its  cultivation 
in  the  institutions  stalled  by  him.  Thanks  to  the  munificent  gift  of 
Rs.  2  lakhs  by  a  Marwari  magnate,  he  created  a  trust,  as  a 
constituent  part  of  the  Bhavan,  for  the  teaching  of  this  classical 
language.  Eventually,  it  developed  into  a  post-graduate  and 

The  Bhavan 


research  institution  recognised  by  the  University  of  Bombay  for 
M.  A.  and  Ph.D.  degrees.  He  established  the  Mumbadevi 
Sanskrit  Mahavidyalaya  to  teach  Sanskrit  and  the  ancient  Hindu 
texts  according  to  the  traditional  methods.  Care  was,  however, 
taken  to  ensure  that  the  students  developed  a  genuine  spirit  of 
enquiry  which  is  the  foundation  of  modem  scholarship.  He  also 
provided  facilities  for  Shastris  and  Acharyas  to  study  the 
sacred  texts  and  classical  literature  in  depth  so  that  they  might 
acquire  the  necessary  felicity  to  give  discourses  on  India’s 
ancient  learning. 

Munshi  also  laid  great  stress  on  the  study  of  the 
Bhagvad  Gita ,  the  most  popular  sacred  book  of  the  Hindus. 
Called  the  ‘Song  Celestial’,  the  Gita  has  evoked  the  admiration 
of  many  non-Hindus  for  its  lofty  and  yet  pragmatic  teachings. 
Warren  Hastings,  Britain’s  first  Governor-General  of  India  and 
a  great  admirer  of  the  Indian  civilization,  wrote  enthusiastically 
about  this  book.  The  Gita  contained  passages,  “elevated  to  a 
track  of  sublimity  into  which  our  habits  of  judgment  will  find  it 
difficult  to  pursue  them”.  He  commended  it  as  “a  performance 
of  great  originality,  of  sublimity  of  conception,  reasoning  and 
diction,  almost  unequalled”.  Warren  Hastings  is  deliberately 
quoted  here  because  he  played  an  outstanding  part  in  promoting 
Indological  studies  in  this  country.  With  his  encouragement,  Sir 
William  Jones,  described  as  he  “Justinian  of  India”,  founded  the 
Asiatic  Society  of  Bengal  in  January  1784.  In  this  great  work, 
he  received  the  help  of  two  other  eminent  Orientalists,  Wilkins 
and  Halhed,  all  of  whom  gave  a  much-needed  institutional  basis 
for  the  study  of  India’s  ancient  culture.  Munshi ’s  attempt  in  our 
own  time  was,  therefore,  a  continuation  of  this  noble  but  nearly 
forgotten  tradition.  The  Sanskrit  and  Gita  examinations  conducted 
by  the  Bhavan  have  achieved  great  popularity,  more  than  fifty 
thousand  candidates  taking  their  test  in  them  annually. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Munshi  had  highly  developed  artistic  sensibilities.  He 
wanted  an  increasing  number  of  India’s  young  men  and  young 
women  to  take  an  active  part  in  drama,  dance  and  music.  He 
accordingly  set  up  three  institutions  to  impart  training  in  these 
arts  under  expert  guidance.  The  Bharatiya  Kala  Kendra,  which 
organises  these  activities,  produces  dramas  and  dance  ballets  in 
English,  Hindi,  Gujarati  and  Marathi  to  encourage  amateur 
talent.  It  also  sponsors  inter-collegiate  dramatic  competitions  in 
many  languages.  The  Bhavan  attaches  equally  great  importance 
to  the  advancement  of  modem  learning,  including  science  and 
technology.  It  runs  a  large  number  of  institutions,  situated  in 
many  parts  of  the  country,  imparting  higher  education  in  arts, 
science,  engineering,  technology,  journalism,  advertising,  public 
relations,  modem  management,  printing,  radio,  television,  other 
media  of  mass  communication,  modern  foreign  languages, 
including  French,  German,  Russian,  Japanese  and  Spanish.  The 
Bhavan  has  also  a  department  which  keeps  itself  in  close  touch 
with  the  happenings  in  various  parts  of  the  world.  It  runs 
residential  public  schools.  The  medium  of  instmction  in  these 
institutions  is  English  and  other  principal  Indian  languages. 

The  Bhavan,  whose  main  centre  is  in  Bombay,  is  fast 
spreading  its  activities  in  many  parts  of  the  country  and  abroad. 
Its  progress  has  been  so  rapid  that  it  surprised  even  its  founder. 
Commenting  on  its  expansion,  he  wrote  thus  on  July  4,  1965: 
“The  Bhavan  is  growing  because  it  is  ceaselessly  striving  to 
satisfy  to  some  extent  the  hunger  created  by  our  Renaissance  in 
sensitive  minds  to  recapture  the  fundamental  values  of  our 
culture  in  a  form  suited  to  modern  conditions,  cutting  across 
political,  religious  and  socio-economic  barriers”*.  These  values, 
according  to  him,  were  enshrined  in  the  word  “Dharma”,  the 

*  Kulapati  s  Letter  on  Life,  Literature  and  Culture,  Bhavan  Retrospect 
and  Prospect,  July  4,  1965,  p.  7. 

The  Bhavan 


essence  of  which  was  Truth,  Joy  and  Beauty — Satyam, 
Shivam  and  Sundaram .  The  Bhavan  has  its  centres  in  New 
Delhi  and  in  nearly  all  the  State  capitals  and  important  cities  in 
the  country.  As  far  back  as  1951,  the  Prime  Minister, 
Jawaharlal  Nehru  said  that  he  was  impressed  and  “almost 
overwhelmed  by  the  variety  of  activities  which  normally 
unfortunately  are  not  encouraged  in  India  and  there  are  not  too 
many  places  in  the  country  where  attention  is  paid  to  the  cultural 
aspect  of  our  life”.  The  Bhavan  has  expanded  its  activities  many 
times  since  these  eloquent  words  were  spoken.  The  clamour  for 
more  and  more  branches  continues  unabated.  It  has  now  35 
branches  in  India  and  three  abroad. 

Since  the  Indologists  have  been  publishing  their  studies 
from  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century,  there  has  been  global 
interest  in  Indian  culture.  Many  Europeans  and  Americans  are 
anxious  to  know  more  and  more  about  it.  Besides,  many 
Indians,  who  have  made  their  homes  in  foreign  lands,  are 
anxious  to  retain  their  cultural  moorings  with  their  motherland. 
There  are  as  many  as  25  million  Indian  nationals  who  have 
settled  down  abroad.  After  the  Second  World  War,  when  many 
British  African  possessions  became  free  countries,  a  number  of 
Indians  living  there  migrated  to  Britain  and  have  made  it  their 
homeland.  The  leaders  of  the  Indian  community  there  were 
asking  for  an  institution  that  could  cater  to  the  cultural  needs  of 
its  members.  The  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan  took  upon  itself  the 
responsibility  of  fulfilling  their  requirements.  A  Centra!  Organising 
Committee  was  formed  in  London  on  June  26,  1972  with  Lord 
Mountbatten,  Britain’s  last  Governor-General  of  India,  as 
Patron-in-Chief  and  Lord  Thompson  of  Fleet  Street  as  Patron. 
The  Bhavan,  which  operates  from  London,  has  opened  many 
branches  in  that  country  since  then.  In  1979,  the  British 
Government  made  a  fine  gesture  by  giving  a  grant  of  £  1 1 ,200 
to  its  London  branch. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

From  the  very  beginning,  the  Bhavan  has  received 
warm  welcome  from  the  British  intellectual  classes.  Although  he 
had  withdrawn  from  most  of  the  public  institutions,  Lord 
Mountbatten  chose  to  take  deep  personal  interest  in  it  and  saw 
to  it  that  more  and  more  Britons  participated  in  its  cultural 
activities.  Harold  Macmillan,  Britain’s  Prime  Minister  from  1957 
to  1963,  expressed  his  admiration  for  the  excellent  work  the 
institution  was  doing  in  that  country.  James  Callaghan,  former 
Labour  Prime  Minister,  was  equally  enthusiastic  in  his 
appreciation  of  the  Bhavan ’s  work.  He  said  :  “The  existence  of 
the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan  here  in  London  is  a  tangible  proof 
of  the  very  close  relationship  which  exists  between  India  and  the 
United  Kingdom.  India  has  much  to  offer  to  the  people  of  this 
country  through  her  music  and  dance,  her  arts  and  crafts,  her 
literature  and  learning”.  Mrs.  Margaret  Thatcher,  the  present 
Prime  Minister,  was  all  praise  for  the  institution.  She  said:  “Six 
years  ago  we  were  delighted  and  greatly  honoured  when  you 
decided  to  establish  here  in  London  the  first  cultural  centre 
outside  India.  Today,  you  are  taking  a  splendid  further  initiative. 
Cultural  exchanges  promote  understanding.  The  more  we  know 
of  one  author  ideas  and  history  the  better  we  shall  understand 
what  is  happening  today”. 

Mrs.  Thatchered  went  on  to  say:  “Many  of  us  in  politics 
may  seem  to  be  preoccupied  by  material  and  economic 
problems,  but  most  of  us  know  that  there  are  ultimately  more 
important  things  in  life.  Even  democracy  itself  will  not  survive 
unless  it  is  founded  on  higher  beliefs  and  values”.  More  than 
two  hundred  years  ago  similar  sentiments  were  expressed  by 
one  of  the  greatest  British  statesmen  sent  out  to  India,  Warren 
Hastings,  who,  even  as  he  was  laying  the  foundation  of  the 
British  Raj  in  this  country,  foresaw  that  cultural  ties  between  the 
two  countries  would  be  far  more  durable  than  their  political 

The  Bhavan 


relations.  He  stated  it  as  his  cardinal  belief  that  wise  and  efficient 
government  by  Britain  in  India  would  be  possible  only  on  the 
basis  of  an  intimate  knowledge  of  Indian  life  and  civilization.  He 
gave  signal  proofs  of  his  greatness  in  these  noble  words:  “Every 
instance  which  brings  their  real  character  home  to  observation 
will  impress  us  with  a  more  generous  feeling  for  their  natural 
rights,  and  teach  us  to  estimate  them  by  the  measure  of  our 
own.  Such  instances  can  only  be  obtained  in  their  writings;  and 
these  will  survive  when  the  British  dominion  in  India  shall  have 
long  ceased  to  exist,  and  when  the  sources  which  it  once 
yielded  of  wealth  and  power  are  lost  to  remembrance”.  By  its 
widening  cultural  activities  in  Britain,  the  Bharatiya  Vidya 
Bhavan  is  assisting  in  the  prophetic  words  of  Warren  Hastings 
to  come  true. 

At  the  time  of  writing  this  chapter,  the  Bhavan  is  making 
brisk  preparations  for  stalling  its  activities  in  the  United  States 
of  America.*  That  country  is  not  a  stranger  to  the  Indian  cultural 
heritage.  Swami  Vivekananda’s  epoch-making  speech  at  the 
Parliament  of  Religions  in  Chicago  in  September  1 893  and  his 
subsequent  addresses  from  many  platforms  brought  a  new 
awareness  among  the  American  people  about  the  richness  of 
ancient  Indian  culture.  The  great  European  thinker  and  friend  of 
India,  Remain  Rolland,  has  described  the  Swami ’s  Chicago 
speech  as  “a  tongue  of  flame”.  The  saffron-robed  Sanyasi 
declared  with  absolute  certitude  that  Hinduism  was  the  “mother 
of  religious”,  which  taught  the  precepts  :  “Accept  and  understand 
one  another”;  “Whoever  comes  to  Me,  through  whatever  form, 
I  reach  him”;  “All  men  are  stmggling  through  paths  which  in  the 
end  lead  to  Me”.  Swami  Vivekananda  strove  hard  to  shorten 

*  A  branch  of  the  Bhavan  was  opened  at  New  York  in  October  1981. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

the  distance  between  the  East  and  the  West.  He  wanted  them 
“to  espouse  each  other”.  He  saw  in  India  and  the  West  “two 

organisms  in  full  youth . two  great  experiments, 

neither  of  which  is  yet  complete”.  He  and  his  followers 
established  a  number  of  branches  of  Ramakrishna  Mission  in 
America  and  elsewhere  to  propagate  that  which  was  great  and 
noble  in  ancient  India.  Announcing  their  decision  to  take  the 
Bhavan  to  America,  its  leaders  say  :  “The  Bhavan  believes  that 
there  are  elements  in  all  cultures  which  transcend  all  barriers  and 
knit  peoples  together.  Its  ideal  is  Vasudhaiva  Kutumbakam — 
the  world  is  one  family’.  Its  motto  is  Aa  no  bhadraah  kratavo 
yantu  viswatah:  “Let  noble  thoughts  come  to  us  from  every 
side”.  There  are  300,000  Indians  in  the  United  States  of 
America.  Not  only  they,  but  most  Americans  will,  as  Britons 
have  been  doing  in  their  country,  co-operate  with  the  Bhavan  in 
fulfilling  its  mission  there. 

The  Bhavan’s  main  centre  in  Bombay  is  the  beehive  of 
activity.  It  has  a  well-stocked  library,  with  over  60,000  books, 
“perhaps  one  of  the  best  Indological  libraries  in  the  country”,  to 
quote  Munshi.  It  has  published  the  famous  Singhi  Series  of  Jain 
literature.  As  pointed  out  in  the  last  chapter,  the  publication  of 
eleven  large  volumes  on  the  history  and  culture  of  the  Indian 
people  is  one  of  Munshi’s  most  memorable  achievements.  He 
had  a  lofty  conception  of  history,  to  which  he  gave  detailed 
expression  on  December  25,  1956,  in  his  inaugural  address  to 
the  nineteenth  session  of  the  Indian  History  Congress. 
He  regretted  that  history  had  been  reduced  to  an  “unabashed 
propaganda”.  “History”,  he  maintained,  “can  have  only  one, 
approach — the  historical”.  It  could  only  be  the  story  of  the 
integration  or  the  disintegration  of  “a  human  aggregate”.  He 
was  firmly  of  the  opinion  that  India’s  history  needed  to  be  re¬ 
written,  “first  from  the  Indian  point  of  view.  Secondly,  not  from 

The  Bhavan 


any  pre-conceived  national  bias,  but  with  a  view  to  discover 
what,  in  the  course  of  centuries,  we  felt  and  suffered;  how  we 
reached  to  new  conditions;  what  were  the  central  ideas  and 
fundamental  values  which  persisted  through  time;  how  we  were 
influenced  or  overwhelmed  by  the  impact  of  external  forces  or 
internal  disruption  and  how  we  survived  them  to  emerge  as  a 
vital  and  free  nation”*.  It  is  the  considered  opinion  of  historians 
that  the  Bhavan’s  history  volumes  fully  satisfy  these  exacting 

The  Bhavan ’s  journal,  started  in  1954,  is  the  institution’s 
fortnightly  organ  in  English.  It  contains  scholarly  articles  on 
religion  and  philosophy  and  also  on  important  secular  subjects. 
Besides  briefly  recording  the  Bhavan’s  activities,  the  issues 
carry  book  reviews.  For  a  long  time,  Munshi  published  his 
“Kulapati’s  Letters”  in  this  journal.  His  letters  were  meant  to  be 
read  by  all  the  recipients  of  the  fortnightly  and  it  is  most  unlikely 
that  many  skipped  them.  They  were  invariably  informative  and 
often  revealing.  The  sources  of  his  information  were  perennial 
and  dependable  so  that  whatever  he  wrote  bore  the  stamp  not 
only  of  authenticity  but  also  of  authority.  There  in  them  he 
revealed  the  range  of  his  mind  and  versatility  in  all  its  amplitude. 
Dr.  K.  R.  Srinivasa  Iyengar  writes  about  the  letters  thus  :  “It  is 
an  extraordinary  feat  of  substained  self-revelation,  mingling 
memory  reverie,  speculation,  “argument  and  exhortation".  A 
number  of  these  letters  have  been  brought  together  and 
published  in  book  form.  Two  other  fortnight! ies,  one  in  Hindi 
called  Bharati  and  another  in  Gujarati  entitled  Samarpan ,  are 
being  published  by  the  Bhavan.  While  the  former  began  its 
career  in  1956,  the  latter  was  started  in  1959.  As  pointed  out 
in  the  last  chapter,  the  Bhavan’s  Book  University  series 

*  Sparks  from  a  Governors  Anvil  by  Dr.  K.  M.  Munshi,  Volume  II,  pp. 
519,  520,  523,  525,  526. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

represents  a  remarkable  publishing  venture  since  it  provides 
enlightening  reading  material  to  the  public  at  an  incomparably 
cheap  price.  Some  of  the  books  in  this  series  have  achieved 
phenomenal  popularity  and  their  copies  have  been  sold  in 
hundreds  of  thousands.  The  series  is  a  boon  to  buyers  of  books 
with  limited  means. 

Munshi  had  deep  faith  in  India’s  past,  in  God  and  in 
prayer  and  meditation,  but  he  never  allowed  his  mind  to  be 
anchored  to  dead  traditions  and  beliefs.  His  attempts  to  achieve 
India’s  greatness  on  the  foundation  of  a  glorious  past  were 
entirely  rational.  It  could  not  be  otherwise  in  a  man  distinguished 
for  his  intellectual  brilliance  and  legal  acumen.  The  three 
principles  he  enunciated  for  regulating  the  Bhavan’s  activities 
conclusively  prove  this.  He  insisted  that  the  “other  worldliness”, 
which  dominated  the  life  of  Indians  in  the  past  and  which  in  his 
view  was  a  “curse”,  must  be  replaced  by  “a  sense  of  joy  in  the 
life  as  it  is  lived”.  Those  traditions  that  had  outlived  their 
usefulness  and  “stifled  the  creative  vitality  of  the  individual  and 
collective  life”  should  be  discarded  in  favour  of  “vigorous  and 
flexible  attitudes  on  life”.  Lastly,  the  fundamental  values  that  had 
fertilised  the  Indian  culture  in  the  past  should  be  “captured 
afresh  for  our  generation”. 

There  is  nothing  outmoded  or  obscure  about  these 
prescriptions.  As  he  advanced  in  age  and  as  the  travails  of  the 
world  began  to  multiply,  Munshi ’s  conviction  about  the  need  for 
a  spiritual  and  cultural  renaissance  gained  in  strength.  On  the 
eve  of  his  reaching  his  seventy-ninth  year,  he  wrote  :  “In  a  world 
falling  to  pieces  under  the  impact  of  an  amoral  technological 
avalanche,  it  (the  Bhavan)  tries  to  hold  fast  to  the  fundamental 
values  of  our  culture — Rita,  Satya,  Yagna  and  Tap  as — Faith  in 
God  who  informs  the  Cosmic  Order,  Truth  which  is  accord 
between  mind,  word  and  deed;  Dedication  which  offers  all 

The  Bhavan 


movements  of  life  as  offerings  to  God;  Sublimation  which 
purifies  the  body  and  mind,  and  transmutes  instinct,  passions 
and  emotions  into  things  of  beauty”. 

We  are  living  in  an  age  of  exterior  accomplishment 
never  equalled  by  mankind  in  all  its  history.  And  yet  man’s 
triumph  over  nature  and  his  incredible  advance  in  science  and 
technology  have  not  helped  him  to  overcome  his  evil  propensities. 
He  is  perhaps  more  unhappy  and  perplexed  than  ever  before. 
This  feeling  of  frustration  and  bewilderment  is  not  confined  to 
any  particular  country  or  clime.  It  is  shared  by  all  thinking 
persons,  irrespective  of  their  race  or  nationality.  They  know  that 
a  future  worth  contemplating  cannot  be  achieved  by  flights  to 
the  far  side  of  the  moon.  Nor  can  it  be  gained  by  adding  wants 
and  fulfilling  them.  It  can  be  gained  only  in  our  individual  hearts. 
This  is  the  only  choice  before  man  as  a  free  agent  with  the 
capacity  to  look  before  and  after  in  the  cosmos.  Like  other  true 
religions  and  cultural  institutions,  the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan 
seeks  to  indicate  how  best  man  can  realise  his  mental  serenity. 
This  was  indeed  the  intention  of  its  founder.  We  may  conclude 
this  chapter  in  the  felicitous  words  of  Sir  H,  V.  Divatia.  He  says: 
“The  Bhavan  may  be  likened  to  an  ancient  mango  tree  which 
being  well-watered,  well-manured  and  well-nourished,  has  each 
of  its  branches  laden  with  luscious  fruits.  Each  constituent 
activity  of  the  Bhavan  is  just  like  such  a  mango  fruit,  which 
ripens  by  the  common  sap  rising  up  from  its  spreading  roots 
deep  down  in  the  soil  of  India”. 



Munshi  withdrew  from  THE  CONGRESS  In 

1959,  two  years  after  he  had  laid  down  the  Govemnorship 
of  Uttar  Pradesh.  He  shared  the  distress  of  all  right-thinking 
persons  over  the  happenings  in  the  country.  The  Constitution 
was  not  working  well,  thereby  confirming  the  forebodings  of 
some  of  the  members  of  the  Constituent  Assembly  that  it  would 
not  yield  the  desired  results.  For  instance,  L.  Sahu  had  warned 
that  “the  ideals  on  which  this  draft  Constitution  is  framed  have 
no  manifest  relation  to  the  fundamental  spirit  of  India”.  Another 
member  had  said:  “We  wanted  the  music  of  veena  or  sitar,  but 
here  we  have  the  music  of  an  English  band”.  A  third  member 
had  complained  that  the  Constitution  represented  “a  slavish 
surrender  to  the  West”.  Nehru,  who  was  the  guiding  spirit  in  the 
Constituent  Assembly  and  inspired  the  constitution-makers  with 
his  own  idealism,  felt  constrained  to  concede  that  “democracy 
to  be  successful,  must  have  a  background  of  informed  opinion 
and  a  sense  of  responsibility”.  Munshi  knew  that  such  ideal 
conditions  did  not  exist  in  India.  This  indeed  is  the  reason  why 
he  insisted  in  the  Constituent  Assembly  and  outside  in  later 
years  that  the  powers  of  the  President  of  the  Union  and  of  the 
Governors  of  States  should  not  be  explained  away.  He  was 
convinced  that  the  cause  of  both  democracy  and  of  good 
government  would  have  been  better  served  if  they  had  been 
allowed  to  function  as  effective  functionaries. 

18-473  M.  ofl&B/  ND/181 



He  felt  that  another  safeguard  against  national 
drift  was  the  creation  of  an  alternative  to  the  Congress 
Government.  This  was  a  widely  shared  view.  India  had 
deliberately  opted  for  parliamentary  government  based  on  the 
Westminster  system.  It  was  imperative  to  evolve  a  sound  party 
system,  deriving  its  strength  and  sustenance  from  a  stable 
division  of  political  power  among  the  principal  elements  of  the 
population.  Monopoly  government,  it  was  felt,  was  a  complete 
negation  of  parliamentary  government.  As  the  premier  national 
organisation,  which  had  borne  the  brunt  of  the  struggle  for  the 
country’s  independence  and  whose  top  leadership  consisted  of 
men  of  outstanding  calibre,  the  Congress  had  rightly  taken  over 
the  responsibilities  of  government  from  the  withdrawing  British 
power.  The  death  of  Mahatma  Gandhi  so  soon  after  the 
country’s  emancipation  was  a  national  calamity,  but  India  was 
fortunate  in  having  the  formidable  duumvirate,  Pandit  Nehru  and 
Sardar  Patel,  to  guide  its  destiny.  It  was  Nehru’s  peerless 
prestige  that  saved  a  strifei-tom  India  from  further  falling  apart. 
It  was  again  his  wide-ranging  mind  and  modem  outlook  which 
helped  the  country  to  break  the  shackles  of  scientific  and 
technological  backwardness.  The  integration  of  the  Princely 
States  was  almost  a  s  jperhuman  task  and  yet  it  was  accomplished 
swiftly  and  smoothly  entirely  on  account  of  the  Sardar ’s 
sagacity  and  pragmatism.  India  thus  needed  strong  leadership  to 
stabilise  her  affairs  and  to  put  her  firmly  on  the  road  to  progress. 
Viewed  in  this  light,  the  death  of  Sardar  Patel  in  December 
1950,  in  a  little  over  three  years  after  national  freedom,  was  yet 
another  blow  to  the  country.  The  burden  of  piloting  the  affairs 
of  a  country  of  India'  s  continental  size,  bristling  with  problems, 
some  of  them  intractable,  thus  fell  entirely  on  the  ageing 
shoulders  of  the  Prime  Minister. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

Nehru’s  first  decade  of  premiership  was  dynamic  and 
eventful.  Perhaps,  the  second  phase  of  his  leadership  would 
have  been  equally  fruitful  if  the  ruling  party  and  his  colleagues 
could  rise  to  his  expectations.  India  failed  to  produce  another 
Sardar  Patel  when  the  Prime  Minister  was  in  need  of  such  a 
man  of  strength  and  resourcefulness  to  assist  him.  The  Prime 
Minister  was  faced  with  extremely  difficult  problems.  Neither  he 
nor  the  Sardar  could  ignore  the  clamour  for  the  reorganisation 
of  provinces  on  linguistic  lines.  The  subsequent  formation  of 
linguistic  states  created  new  problems  that  defied  any  rational 
solution.  Like  C.  Rajagopalachari,  Munshi  was,  as  we  saw  in  an 
earlier  chapter,  firmly  opposed  to  any  such  arrangement.  He 
often  expressed  the  fear  that  “linguism”,  as  he  described 
linguistic  bigotry,  would  seriously  undermine  the  stid  weak 
concept  of  India  as  the  land  belonging  to  all  its  inhabitants.  The 
deadlock  over  the  river  waters  dispute  gravely  crippled  the 
national  economic  planning  in  the  all-important  agricultural 
sector.  The  adoption  of  a  wide  range  of  restrictive  legislation,  as 
a  step  towards  expanding  the  public  sector,  inevitably  led  to  a 
tremendous  proliferation  of  the  bureaucracy,  with 
the  inevitable  consequence  of  a  decline  in  efficiency  and  integrity 
in  the  public  administration.  Thinking  persons,  with  no  political 
predilections  of  any  kind,  honestly  felt  that  a  change  of 
government  had  become  necessary. 

There  was  no  dearth  of  opposition  to  the  Congress,  but 
the  parties  ranged  against  it  were  too  numerous  and  too 
disparate  to  be  able  to  evolve  themselves  into  a  viable 
alternative  to  the  ruling  party.  The  Communist  Party 
of  India  consisted  of  able  and  determined  men  and  women,  but 
their  political  and  economic  ideals  had  no  relevance  to  the 
Indian  situation.  Their  exemplar,  Karl  Marx,  hated  nationality 
with  the  rancour  of  an  outcast.  Nehru  was  not  opposed  to  the 
Leninist  or  Marxian  doctrine.  He  was  in  fact  fascinated  by  them, 



but  he  had  no  patience  with  the  Indian  communists.  His  attack 
on  them  on  February  28,  1949,  was  forthright.  He  said  :  “It  (the 
Communist  Party  of  India)  is  deliberately  seeking  to  create 
famine  conditions  by  paralysing  the  railway  system  so  that  the 
foodstuffs  should  not  be  transported,  the  object  being  to  create 
a  general  background  of  chaos,  a  breakdown  of  administration 
and  mass  uprising”.  The  hope  that  the  Communists  would  be 
able  to  step  into  the  shoes  of  Congressmen  at  the  Centre  was 
indeed  forlorn.  C.  Rajagopalachari,  who,  as  the  Chief  Minister 
of  Madras,  had  to  deal  with  the  Communists,  declared  with 
absolute  finality  that  they  were  public  enemy  number  one. 
Munshi,  to  whom  constitutionalism  was  the  breath  of  his  life, 
fully  shared  such  views. 

The  Socialists,  most  of  whom  were  former  Congressmen, 
were  also  intellectuals  who  believed  in  egalitarianism  as  the  first 
principle  of  their  political  and  economic  philosophy.  The  late  Dr. 
Ram  Manohar  Lohia,  a  man  of  vigorous  thought  and  speech, 
spoke  for  them  when  he  said  that  they  were  “equidi  stant”  from 
the  Communists  and  the  Congress.  While  they  rightly  refused  to 
believe  in  violence  as  a  necessary  instrument  of  change,  they 
were  beset  with  internal  discord  on  unsubstantial  ideological 
grounds.  How  the  Samyukta  Socialist  Party  could  be  different 
from  the  Praja  Socialist  Party  when  their  basic  goal  was  the 
same,  only  the  initiated  could  explain.  Disunity  in  their  ranks  was 
reflected  in  their  electoral  performance.  In  the  general  election 
of  1967,  the  two  factions  were  able  to  scrape  together  36  seats 
in  the  Lok  Sabha,  while  their  strength  in  the  House  after  the 
1971  elections  was  reduced  to  a  pitiful  five.  There  was 
refreshing  candour  in  the  admission  of  the  Praja  Socialist  Party, 
whose  executive  conceded  in  April  1962  that  the  electoral 
reverses  of  the  Socialists  proved  their  “failure  to  carry  home  to 
the  voters  the  very  vital  differences”  that  separated  them  from 
the  Congress.  The  Party  recognised  that  “democracy  cannot 


K.  M.  Munshi 

function  effectively  unless  there  is  an  alternative  focus  of  loyalty 
available  to  the  people  which  could  ultimately  provide  an 
alternative  government”.  With  the  formation  of  the  Janata  Party 
in  1977,  the  Socialists  have  ceased  to  exist  as  a  separate  group. 

The  Bharatiya  Jan  Sangh,  founded  by  the  late 
Dr.  Shyama  Prasad  Mookerjee  in  1951,  was  also  no  match  for 
the  Congress.  It  made  its  debut  into  national  politics  with  the 
undeserved  stigma  of  being  a  communal  organisation.  Dr. 
Mookerjee  was  clear  in  his  statement  on  the  composition  and 
policies  of  his  party.  He  said:  “The  Bharatiya  Jan  Sang  emerges 
today  as  an  all-India  political  party  which  will  function  as  the 
principal  party  in  opposition”.  He  wanted  it  to  belong  to  all. 
“We  have”,  he  declared,  thrown  our  party  open  to  all  citizens 
of  India,  irrespective  of  caste,  creed  or  community.  While  we 
recognise  that  in  matters  of  customs,  habits,  religion  and 
language,  Bharat  presents  a  unique  diversity,  the  people  must  be 
united  by  a  bond  of  fellowship  and  understanding  inspired  by 
deep  devotion  and  loyalty  to  the  spirit  of  a  common  motherland”. 

The  party  laid  great  stress  on  national  unity  and  strength, 
opposing  all  divisive  tendencies  at  home  and  insisting  on  military 
strength  based  on  industrial  development.  The  sudden  and 
premature  death  of  its  founder,  a  man  of  all-India  stature,  in 
1953  was  as  much  a  loss  to  the  country  as  it  undoubtedly  was 
to  the  party.  Nevertheless,  the  rank  and  file  of  the  Sangh 
worked  zealously  to  popularise  it  both  among  the  masses  and 
the  classes.  Its  representation  in  the  Lok  Sabha  rose  from  4  in 
1957  to  14  in  1962  and  35  in  1967  but,  to  the  astonishment  of 
most  people,  it  slumped  to  22  in  1971.  Its  championship  of 
Hindi  as  the  national  language  scared  the  South 
away  from  it.  Persistent  propaganda  against  it  succeeded  in 
creating  a  durable  impression  among  the  secularists  and  the 
deprived  sections  of  the  population  that  the  Sangh  stood 



for  none  except  the  upper  class  Hindus  and  the  capitalists. 
Following  its  assimilation  by  the  Janata  Party  in  1977, 
it  lost  its  separate  identity.  It  is  now  known  as  the  Bharatiya 
Janata  Party. 

There  were  other  parties,  mostly  regional,  which  did  not 
matter  at  all  in  the  weights  and  measures  of  national  politics.  The 
Dravida  Munnetra  Kazagam  is  largely  a  Tamilnadu-based  party, 
the  aims  of  which  do  not  go  beyond  advancing  the  interests  of 
the  people  speaking  Tamil.  Parochialism  and  self-glorification 
are  its  main  preoccupations.  It  is  implacably  opposed  to  Hindi 
and  asserts  that  attempts  to  popularise  this  language  in  the 
South  are  unabashed  acts  of  aggression  by  the  North!  The 
Akali  Dal  of  Punjab  is  interested  only  in  the  Sikh  community. 
Master  Tara  Singh  was  its  most  uncompromising  leader.  In  later 
years,  it  succeeded  in  winning  a  separate  State  for  this 
community  by  compelling  a  second  division  of  Punjab.  There  is 
not  much  to  say  about  such  parties  as  the  Bharatiya  Kranti  Dal 
and  the  Samyukta  Vidhayak  Dal,  whose  sonorous  names  could 
not  conceal  their  organisational  weakness.  Their  leaders  were 
noted  neither  for  ability  nor  for  steadiness  of  purpose.  These 
parties  came  unheralded  and  retreated  into  oblivion  without 
much  notice.  They  were  rootless  but  their  existence  encouraged 
defections,  the  bane  of  Indian  political  life. 

It  thus  became  imperative  to  create  a  cohesive  non¬ 
communist  alternative  to  the  Congress  in  order  to  make 
parliamentary  democracy  meaningful  in  this  country.  India  had 
adopted  the  British  governmental  system.  It,  therefore,  became 
necessary  to  acquire  some  of  the  virtues  which  had  ensured  the 
success  of  that  system  in  Britain.  That  country  has  no  written 
constitution,  but  not  long  ago  its  wisest  statesmen  had  a  strong 
constitutional  sense.  “The  strongest  element  in  this  sense”,  says 
a  writer,  “has  been  that  British  government  is  an  affair  of  limits 


K.  M.  Munshi 

and  balances.  The  Minister  as  well  as  the  subject  is  under  an 
impartial  law.  Not  only  must  the  Government  respect  the  law  as 
it  stands  at  any  moment;  in  changing  it,  it  must  have  regard  to 
prescriptive  rights  and  the  organic  nature  of  British  society  as 
well  as  natural  justice  or  moral  imperatives”.  This  constitutional 
doctrine  had  a  profound  significance  to  the  rulers  of  that  land. 
It  was  indeed  stronger  and  more  pervasive  “perhaps  than  in  a 
country  where  it  is  laid  down  in  a  document  and  protected  only 
by  a  court  of  law  or  a  two- thirds  majority.  It  was  imbedded  in 
the  hearts  and  heads  of  the  best  of  those  who  ran  the  system”.* 

The  British  system  also  depended  for  its  stability 
and  efficiency  on  a  well-regulated  and  well-tried  party  system. 
The  British  party  system  is  a  product  of  the  growth  of  free 
institutions  in  Britain  and  has  developed  into  a  method  of 
providing  government  rather  than  becoming  a  means  of 
expressing  shades  of  opinion.  Long  ago,  Macaulay  described 
the  two  political  parties  of  his  time  as  the  fore  and  hind  legs  of 
a  stag.  It  is  of  the  essence  of  the  British  party  system  that  no 
group  or  party  is  allowed  to  acquire  a  monopoly  of  power. 
Churchill  was  acclaimed  as  the  architect  of  British  victory  during 
the  last  war,  but  the  end  of  it  saw  him  stripped  of  all  the  panoply 
of  power.  Nor  have  the  British  parties  made  the  mistake  of 
treating  decisions  by  majority  as  an  absolute  and  unquestionable 
principle.  They  regard  the  Constitution  as,  to  use  Burke’s 
famous  words,  “something  more  than  a  problem  in  arithmetic”. 

In  all  democracies,  the  working  of  the  political  system  is 
the  business  of  the  parties.  In  Britain,  the  Tory  and  the  Liberal 
parties  and  later  the  Labour  Party  have  played 
a  great  part  in  evolving  a  sound  and  durable  party  system.  Apart 

*  The  Prime  Ministers:  From  Lord  John  Russell  to  Edward  Heath 
by  E.  J.  Feuchtwanger,  Volume  II,  George  Allen  &  Unwin 
1975,  p.  203. 



from  the  fact  that  it  is  through  the  parties  that  the  people  can 
rule,  the  two-party  system  in  that  country  provides  the  best 
means  by  which  the  citizen  is  presented  with  the  choice  between 
alternative  rulers.  It  is  precisely  for  this  reason  that  great 
importance  is  attached  to  the  Opposition.  “It  is  not  untrue  to 
say”,  writes  Sir  Ivor  Jennings,  “that  the  most  important  part  of 
Parliament  is  the  Opposition  in  the  House  of  Commons”.*  An 
institutional  Opposition  is  necessary  to  subject  the  activities  of 
those  in  power  to  regular  scmtiny.  Constmctive  criticism  makes 
the  rulers  alert  and  aware  of  their  shortcomings  and  may  lead 
to  the  improvement  of  policies.  Besides,  a  well-founded 
exposure  of  government  actions  and  intentions  provides  a 
welcome  release  for  the  public’s  frustration  with  their  rulers  in 
addition  to  keeping  the  people  aware  of  the  deficiencies  of 
those  in  power.  In  Britain,  the  Opposition  party  plays  its  role 
diligently  and  mostly  with  a  sense  of  responsibility,  because 
“Her  Majesty’s  Opposition  is  essentially  Her  Majesty’s  Alternative 
eager  for  office”. 

A  decade  after  national  independence,  some  of  the  best 
minds  in  India  began  to  think  seriously  how  best  the  conditions 
such  as  those  described  above  could  be  established  in  this 
country.  Outside  the  Congress,  every  important  section  of 
opinion  wanted  that  a  viable  alternative  to  the  Congress  should 
be  created  without  any  further  loss  of  time.  The  credit  for 
bringing  such  a  project  to  fruition  goes  to  M.  R.  Masani,  a 
former  Congressman  and  a  Socialist  leader  who  later  adopted 
temperate  politics  as  the  philosophy  of  his  life.  He  was  opposed 
to  the  Congress  Government’s  “statist  and  communistic  panaceas” 
and  began  to  canvass  briskly  for  the  formation  of  a  new  party. 
He  approached  C.  Rajagopalachari  to  take  the  lead,  but  the 

*  Cabinet  Government  by  Sir  Ivor  Jennings,  Cambridge  University 
Press,  1951,  p.  439. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

latter  at  first  pleaded  ill-health  and  old  age  and  referred  Masani 
to  Jayaprakash  Narayan.  The  move  was  heartily  endorsed  by 
Jayaprakash  Narayan,  who  attended  a  meeting  convened  by 
Rajaji  but  desired  that  the  Grand  Old  Man  should  be  at  the 
helm.  In  May  1959,  both  Rajaji  and  Masani  spoke  from  a 
common  platform  at  Bangalore,  which  paved  the  way  for  the 
formation  of  the  Swatantra  Party  in  Madras  on  June  4. 

Rajagopalachari  at  once  became  Swatantra’ s  stellar 
attraction.  His  long  life  had  been  one  of  suffering  and  sacrifice 
for  the  liberation  of  his  motherland.  In  this  noble  undertaking,  he 
had  been  a  close  associate  of  Mahatma  Gandhi  and  Jawaharlal 
Nehru.  He  had  in  addition  achieved  the  distinction  of  being  the 
first  and  last  Governor-General  of  free  India.  Nehru  wrote  of 
him  in  1940  that  his  “brilliant  intellect,  selfless  character,  and 
penetrating  powers  of  analysis  have  been  a  tremendous  asset  to 
our  cause”.  Rajaji  was  indeed  acclaimed  as  the  most  astute 
intellectual  among  the  elite  of  Indian  nationalists.  His  solicitude 
for  the  underdog  was  never  in  doubt.  Perhaps,  it  would  not  be 
incorrect  to  summarise  his  philosophy  of  life  in  terms  of  the 
Periclean  concept  which  gives  primacy  to  political  liberty  and 
social  justice  in  the  government  of  human  affairs.  No  doctrine 
was  repugnant  to  him  so  long  as  it  was  derived  from  these  twin 
principles.  He  was  opposed  to  imported  ideas  and  ideals  having 
no  relevance  to  Indian  conditions.  He  did  not  think  that 
antipathy  to  free  enterprise  was  in  the  country’s  best  interests. 
India’s  greatest  need  was  the  creation  of  more  wealth.  He  was 
convinced  that  the  contribution  of  private  individuals  and 

*  While  Masani  gives  the  date  of  Swatantra’s  formation  as  June  8,  1959, 
Dr.  Howard  L.  Erdman  says  that  it  was  founded  on  June  4.  See  A 
Decade  of  Close  Association  by  M.  R.  Masani  in  the  Souvenir  Volume, 
Rajaji  — 93,  p.  131  and  The  Swatantra  Party  and  Indian  Conservatism 
by  Howard  L.  Erdman,  Cambridge  University  Press,  1967,  p.  65. 



institutions  to  this  end  was  as  precious  as  that  of  the  State.  He 
welcomed  the  Government’s  initiative  in  promoting  public  good 
but  was  averse  to  “statism”  with  its  implication  of  stifling  the 
liberty  of  the  individual  and  the  spirit  of  enterprise.  He  was,  of 
course,  firmly  opposed  to  dishonesty  in  business  and  industry. 

Munshi  was  clear  in  his  mind  that  the  Constitution  carried 
the  necessary  provisions  to  promote  such  social  and  economic 
changes  as  the  rulers  and  the  people  of  the  country  wanted.  It 
is  true  that  the  Directive  Principles  of  State  Policy  were  not 
legally  enforcible,  but  the  very  fact  that  they  formed  an  integral 
part  of  the  supreme  statute  of  the  land  and  gave  clear  directions 
about  the  manner  in  which  justice  should  be  done  to  the 
common  man  invested  them  with  great  importance.  The  modem 
State,  with  a  democratic  set  up,  had  necessarily  got  to  be  a 
welfare  state  so  that  it  was  unnecessary  for  a  government  to 
espouse  any  particular  “ism”.  This  is  the  reason  why  Munshi 
always  insisted  that  the  country  must  have  a  strong  Centre. 
Such  a  dispensation  would  ensure  not  only  the  protection  of  the 
country  from  external  aggression  and  internal  disruption  but  also 
the  adoption  of  the  necessary  measures  for  the  social  and 
economic  welfare  of  the  masses.  Forces  that  tended  to  frustrate 
this  goal  should  be  suppressed.  He  feared  that  the  creation  of 
linguistic  states  had  done  great  harm  to  the  cause  of  national 
solidarity.  He  certainly  did  not  advocate  their  abolition,  but 
wanted  that  the  policy  of  the  country’s  principal  government 
should  be  more  pragmatic.  He  hoped  that  Swatantra  would  fulfil 
this  need. 

The  Swatantra  Party  came  into  existence  as  a  counterpoise 
to  the  mling  Congress,  many  of  whose  economic  policies  were 
anathema  to  it.  The  Congress  resolution  at  Nagpur  on  joint  co¬ 
operative  farming  hastened  the  advent  of  the  new  party.  It  was 
feared  that  the  Government  was  aiming  at  the  collectivization  of 


K.  M.  Munshi 

agriculture.  Although  during  its  short-lived  career,  Swatantra’s 
mass  appeal  was  meagre,  it  drew  into  its  fold  a  large  number 
of  persons  who  had  distinguished  themselves  in  various  walks  of 
life.  Its  membership  consisted  of  farmers’  representatives, 
eminent  political  leaders,  economists,  educationists,  retired  civil 
servants,  industrialists,  many  members  of  the  former  Princely 
Order  and  several  others.  N.  G.  Ranga,  a  peasant  populist,  is 
an  Oxford-educated  economist,  who  was  a  Congress  stalwart 
in  Andhra  Pradesh.  He  is  the  founder  of  the  Kisan  Sabha,  a 
peasants'  organisation,  and  has  frequently  attended  International 
conferences  as  an  agricultural  expert.  He  was  elected  to  the 
Presidentship  of  Swatantra.  An  equally  distinguished  entrant  into 
the  new  party  was  Bhailalbhai  Patel  of  Gujarat  who,  though  an 
engineer  by  profession,  abandoned  his  career  in  i942  in 
response  to  Sardar  Patel’s  suggestion  that  he  should  do 
Gandhian  constructive  work  in  rural  Gujarat.  Affectionately 
known  as  Bhaikaka,  he  has  founded  a  major  modem  residential 
college  at  Anand  and  won  the  gratitude  and  admiration  of  the 
people  of  Gujarat  by  encouraging  the  establishment  of  modem, 
highly  efficient  small-scale  industries. 

Rajagopalchari’s  appeal  to  the  “old  warriors  of  the 
Congress”  to  rally  under  the  Swatantra  banner  met  with  good 
response.  Dr.  H.  K.  Mahatab  of  Orissa,  K.  Hanumanthaiya  of 
Karnataka,  Jai  Narain  Vyas  of  Rajasthan,  S.  K.  D.  Paliwal  of 
Uttar  Pradesh  and  Sardar  Udham  Singh  Nagoke  of  Punjab 
were  among  the  senior  Congressmen  who  decided  to  make 
common  cause  with  the  new  party.  Masani  and  Ranga  were 
seasoned  parliamentarians  but  their  defeat  in  the  1962  elections 
created  a  desperate  need  for  finding  an  alternative  leadership  of 
the  party  in  the  national  legislature.  The  names  of  M.  S.  Aney 
of  Vidarbha  and  Prakash  Vir  Shastri  were  prominently  mentioned 
for  such  leadership.  In  good  old  days,  Aney  had  been  the  right- 
hand  man  of  Lokmanya  Tilak.  He  was  a  staunch  Congressman 



but  had  strong  reservations  about  some  of  Mahatma  Gandhi’s 
principles  and  policies.  He  was  acting  Congress  President  in 
1933.  He  was  an  experienced  legislator  and  belonged  to  the 
school  of  C.  R.  Das,  Pandit  Motilal  Nehru  and  Pandit  Madan 
Mohan  Malaviya.  A  fiercely  freedom-loving  man,  he  never 
hesitated  to  call  a  spade  even  when  he  was  the  Governor  of 
Bihar,  Aney  welcomed  the  formation  of  Swatantra  but  preferred 
to  remain  in  the  Congress  fold.  Prakash  Vir  Shastri  of  Uttar 
Pradesh,  an  independent  and  assertive  M.P,  would  certainly 
have  made  a  valuable  addition  to  the  Swatantra  group  in  the 
Lok  Sabha. 

N.  C.  Chatterjee,  a  former  President  of  the  Hindu 
Mahasabha  and  one  of  the  ablest  lawyers  in  the  country,  joined 
the  new  party  and  became  its  head  in  West  Bengal.  Professor 
M.  Ruthnaswamy,  who  taught  political  science  and  rose  to 
become  the  Vice  Chancellor  of  Annamalai  University,  joined  the 
new  party  with  enthusiasm.  He  was  one  of  the  most  prominent 
lay  Catholics  in  the  country.  Another  prominent  non-Congressman 
to  join  Swatantra  was  J.  B.  Mohammed  Imam  of  former 
Mysore  State.  He  had  been  a  member  of  the  Muslim  League 
till  the  country’s  partition  in  1947.  Later,  he  joined  Acharya  J. 
B.  Kripalani’s  Kisan  Mazdoor  Praja  Party.  Dr.  Erdman  writes 
about  him  thus:  “A  very  staunch  secularist  and  anti-communist, 
Imam  felt  very  strongly  the  need  to  consolidate  the  opposite 
forces  in  India  and,  more  generally,  to  reduce  the  number  of 
parties  overall,  with  the  ultimate  objective  of  establishing  an 
approximation  of  a  two-party  system  in  the  country”.* 

The  party  had  also  a  sizable  number  of  former  civil 
servants,  most  of  them  with  a  distinguished  record  of  service 
both  during  the  British  period  and  later.  C.  C.  Desai  was  at  one 

*  The  Swatantra  Party  and  Indian  Conservation  by  Howard  L.  Erdman, 
p.  133. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

time  India’s  High  Commissioner  in  Pakistan  while  H.  M.  Patel 
had  held  the  most  responsible  administrative  positions  in  the 
finance  and  defence  ministries.  He  later  became  Union  Finance 
Minister,  when  the  Janata  Party  came  into  power  in  1977.  V.  P. 
Menon  was  another  able  civilian  whose  tact  and  resourcefulness 
were  of  inestimable  value  to  Sardar  Patel  in  promoting  the 
peaceful  integration  of  Princely  India.  V.  Narahari  Rao  was  a 
retired  Comptroller  and  Auditor  General  of  India.  Narayan 
Dadekar  was  another  distinguished  ex-civilian,  who  used  his 
expert  knowledge  of  finance  and  accounts  with  devastating 
effect  in  Parliament.  In  May  1970,  he  caused  a  countrywide 
interest  in  the  salaries  of  Union  Ministers  by  calling  attention  to 
their  size.  J.  M.  Lobo  Prabhu,  another  former  I.C.S.  man,  was 
happy  to  join  Swatantra.  He  is  a  Christian.  He  noted  with 
satisfaction  that  when  he  served  in  the  Madras  Province  when 
Rajagopalachari  was  the  Chief  Minister  there  was  no  interference 
of  any  kind  in  the  administration. 

Many  leading  industrialists,  including  Sir  Homi  Mody,  A. 
D.  Shroff,  Murarji  Vaidya  and  Dharamsey  Khatau,  joined  the 
party.  A  number  of  dispossessed  princes,  especially  from 
Rajasthan,  Madhya  Pradesh  and  Orissa,  made  common  cause 
with  Swatantra.  Although  their  principalities  had  been  annexed 
and  their  ruling  powers  were  taken  away  from  them,  some  of 
them  continued  to  retain  the  affection  and  esteem  of  their  former 
subjects.  This  was  particularly  noticeable  in  areas  where  the 
popular  ministries  had  failed  to  rise, to  the  people’s  expectations. 
For  instance,  in  the  first  elections,  the  Maharaja  of  Jodhpur  won 
by  a  large  majority  against  Jai  Narain  Vyas  who  forfeited  his 
deposit.  Vyas  later  won  in  a  by-election  and  became  the  first 
Chief  Minister  of  Raj asthan . 4 4 Whatever  the  situation  might  have 
been  in  the  rest  of  India”,  says  the  former  Maharani  of  Jaipur, 
“in  former  princely  territories,  people  voted,  when  they  had  the 



opportunity,  from  a  sense  of  the  age-old  bond  between  the 
Indian  ruler  and  his  subjects.  The  actual  political  platform  was 
a  secondary  consideration”.  Commenting  on  her  own  husband’s 
popularity,  she  writes:  “If  anyone  had  needed  the  proof  that  the 
bond  that  existed  between  rulers  and  people  in  most  of  the 
princely  states  was  deep  and  genuine,  they  had  only  to  follow 
Jai  around  any  day  of  the  week  in  Jaipur”.* 

The  party  thus  consisted  mostly  of  intellectual  and  affluent 
classes,  a  good  number  of  whom  held  liberal  views 
on  social  and  economic  matters.  Swatantra’s  foundation 
document  consisted  of  twenty-one  articles  which  reflected 
Rajagopalachari’s  assertion  that  his  party  stood  “for  the 
protection  of  the  individual  against  the  increasing  trespasses  of 
the  State”.  It  objected  to  the  policy  of  “statism”,  to  the 
“collectivization  and  bureaucratic  management  of  the  rural 
economy”  and  to  “crippling  taxation,  abnormal  deficit  financing, 
and  foreign  loans  which  are  beyond  the  capacity  of  the  country 
to  repay”.  Notwithstanding  the  sobriety  which  marked  the 
blueprint,  it  failed  to  win  popular  support.  From  the  beginning, 
Swatantra  was  decried  as  the  “richmen’s  party”  which  played 
no  small  part  in  damaging  its  image.  It  was  dismissed  as  a  party 
of  conservative  rich  peasants  in  the  South,  of  a  few  finance 
capitalists  and  of  feudal  chiefs.  Nehru  condemned  it  as 
belonging  to  “the  middle  ages  of  lords,  castles  and  zamindars”. 
He  wondered  what  the  party  stood  for  since  it  harboured 
diverse  elements  in  its  ranks. 

In  politics,  such  attacks  on  rival  parties  are  inevitable. 
The  fact  that  so  much  notice  was  taken  of  Swatantra  proved  its 
effectiveness.  Neither  conservatism  nor  the  doctrine  of  the 

*  A  Princes  Remembers:  Memoirs  of  the  Maharani  of  Jaipur  by 
Gayatri  Devi  of  Jaipur  and  Shantha  Rama  Rau,  J.  B.  Lippincolt  Co., 
Philadelphia  and  New  York,  1976,  pp.  230,  254. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

inevitability  of  gradualness  is  sterile.  Disraeli,  the  British 
statesman,  said  that  we  must  be  “conservative  to  conserve  all 
that  is  good  and  radical  to  uproot  all  that  is  bad”. 
The  tenability  of  the  charge  that  Swatantra  consisted  of  a 
congeries  of  disparate  groups  should  also  be  assessed  from  the 
wider  perspective  of  national  necessity.  The  country  was  in 
desperate  need  of  institutional  opposition  and  this  essential 
requirement  Swatantra  sought  to  meet.  The  fact  that  not  all  its 
members  were  like-minded  was  not  its  exclusive  infirmity.  The 
Indian  National  Congress  has  always  been  a  composite 
organisation,  harbouring  many  irreconcilable  elements  in  its 
ranks.  This  is  so  in  one  of  the  greatest  democracies  in  the 
world,  namely,  America.  The  Ajmerican  system  is  most  prone  to 
constitutional  deadlocks  but  its  excellent  party  system  has 
successfully  surmounted  this  problem,  although  the  composition 
of  both  the  Democratic  and  Republican  parties  is  bewilderingly 

Sir  Donald  Brogan,  who  is  a  great  authority  on  the 
American  Constitution,  says:  “It  is  easier  to  understate,  than  to 
overstate,  the  doctrinal  disunion  of  American  parties,  to  create 
the  impression  that  it  is  merely  an  exaggerated  version  of  the 
doctrinal  overlapping  which  marks  all  parties  in  all  countries. 
But  it  is  not  merely  a  case  of  pink  shading  into  red,  of  left 
overlapping  the  centre.  In  the  American  system,  the  right  of  the 
Democratic  Party  does  not  overlap  the  left,  but  the  right  of  the 
Republican  Party.  The  radicals  of  the  Republican  party  are  as 
radical  as  the  radicals  of  the  Democrats,  the  conservatives  as 
conservative”.*  In  Western  Democracies,  the  primary  aim 
of  the  political  parties  is  to  compete  for  power,  irrespective 
of  their  social  and  economic  convictions.  The  fact  that  they  have 

*  Government  of  the  People  :  A  Study  of  the  American  Political 
System  by  D.  W.  Brogan,  Harper,  1946,  p.  38. 



to  struggle  to  attain  their  goal  ensures  that  their  policies  are 
progressive,  for  otherwise  the  people  will  reject  them.  The  party 
system  also  provides  the  best  safeguard  against  any  single  party 
claiming  the  divine  right  to  govern  for  ever.  So,  in  countries  like 
America  and  Canada,  ideological  differences  are  not  of  much 
importance,  for  the  prize  for  which  the  parties  fight  is  power.  As 
Professor  K.  C.  Wheare  points  out,  “most  of  the  time  it  has  not 
been  easy  to  say  what  divides  them  beyond  the  fact — and  it  is 
more  important  than  is  often  realised — that  one  party  was  in 
office  and  the  other  party  was  out  of  office . ”# 

Swatantra  had,  therefore,  every  right  to  aspire 
to  become  an  alternative  to  the  Congress.  During  the  short 
period  it  was  in  existence,  it  certainly  became  a  major  political 
force  in  the  country.  Its  achievements  in  the  elections  prove  this. 
In  the  elections  of  1962,  its  strength  in  the  Lok  Sabha  was  18 
and  it  shot  up  to  44  in  the  1967  elections.  The  great  infirmity 
of  the  party,  however,  was  that  its  leadership  was  more 
distinguished  than  popular.  It  had  no  means  of  penetrating  the 
countryside  in  order  to  be  able  to  tap  the  reservoir  of  votes 
there.  Masani  admitted  this  fact  when  he  said  that  his  party  had 
still  to  “build  its  own  structure  on  a  sound  and  more  broadbased 
social  basis.  It  has,  in  particular,  to  devote  specific  attention  to 
massive  sections  of  the  people,  like  Harijans,  Adivasis,  small 
farmers,  industrial  and  agricultural  labour,  shopkeepers,  youth 
and  women”.* *  Since  this  was  not  done,  the  party  suffered 
serious  reverses  in  the  1971  elections  when  it  could  send  only 
eight  members  to  the  Lok  Sabha.  Masani,  who  was  then  the 
party’s  President,  resigned  from  that  office  despite 
Rajagopalachari’s  appeal  to  him  to  carry  on.  Swatantra  ceased 

#  Federal  Government  by  K.C.  Wheare,  Oxyford,  1946,  p.  87. 

*  The  Swatantra  Party  and  Indian  Conservatism  by  H.  L.  Erdman, 
p.  255. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

to  be  a  force  to  be  reckoned  with  thereafter.  Although  Munshi 
was  closely  associated  with  its  formation,  he  could  not 
contribute  much  to  its  growth  and  durability.  He  was  not  a  man 
of  the  masses,  although  his  solicitude  for  them  was  undoubted. 
His  death  in  February  197 1  synchronised  with  the  demise  of  the 
party  he  had  helped  to  found. 


The  Man 

air-complexioned,  short,  wiry  and  the  very  incarnation 
of  energy.  He  was  a  man  of  deep  piety  but  he  also  worshipped 
work.  His  dynamism  and  restless  disposition  drove  him  to 
participate  in  numerous  activities,  far  beyond  the  range  of  men 
of  normal  vigour.  His  intellect  was  pellucid  and  it  drew  its 
sustenance  from  the  springs  of  his  natural  instincts  and  romantic 
emotions.  He  bore  deep  affection  for  his  father,  Maneklal,  and 
put  his  mother,  Tapibehn,  on  the  pedestals  of  a  goddess. 
Maneklal,  a  non-Matriculate,  was  a  government  official,  but  he 
was  endowed  with  noteworthy  literary  abilities  and  wrote  a 
drama  in  verse.  Munshi  owed  much  to  his  mother,  who 
remained  his  mentor  both  in  the  years  of  penury  and  later  when 
he  scaled  new  heights  of  affluence  and  recognition.  Her  belief  in 
God  was  deep  and  unaffected.  She  had  made  a  careful  study 
of  the  scriptures  of  her  religion,  including  the  two  Epics  and  the 
Pur  anas.  She  fed  her  little  son  with  tales  of  the  great  deeds 
performed  by  the  heroic  figures  in  Ramayana  and  Mahabharata 
and  thus  instilled  in  him  a  deep  and  abiding  admiration  for  the 
greatness  and  the  glory  of  his  motherland.  She  wrote  her 
memoirs  in  which  she  recorded  her  devotion  to  God.  Though  a 
firm  believer  in  the  immemorial  virtues  of  her  ancient  land,  she 
never  forgot  that  she  was  living  in  a  changing  world.  When  after 
the  death  of  his  wife,  Atilakshmi  in  1924,  Munshi  wanted  to 
marry  Lilavati,  a  widow,  Tapibehn  readily  gave  her  consent.  In 


K.  M.  Munshi 

a  conservative  and  diehard  society,  which  viewed  with  repugnance 
the  slightest  departure  from  the  hidebound  traditions,  marriage 
with  a  widow  was  undoubtedly  the  most  memorable  event.  It 
can  be  truly  said  that  Munshi  would  not  have  been  able  to  make 
Lilavati  his  life’s  partner  without  the  blessings  of  his  courageous 
mother.  He,  however,  retained  tender  memories  of  his  first  wife 
whose  devotion  to  him  during  her  lifetime  was  exemplary. 

Munshi  and  Lilavati  were  married  in  1926.  They  were 
the  most  remarkable  couple.  Lilavati,  whose  first  marriage  had 
brought  her  no  happiness,  was  a  highly  talented  and  courageous 
woman.  She  was  a  brilliant  and  resourceful  writer  in  Gujarati 
and  struck  out  a  new  path  in  the  literature  of  that  language  by 
publishing  as  far  back  as  1924  the  pen-portraits  of  famous 
Gujarati  writers  and  social  workers.  The  articles,  noted  as  much 
for  their  unconventionality  as  for  their  style,  were  published  in 
Gujarat ,  a  prestigious  literary  journal  edited  by  no  less  a 
person  than  Munshi.  The  young  lady,  who  could  not  possibly 
ignore  the  contribution  of  the  Editor  to  Gujarati  literature, 
minced  no  words  in  her  sketch  when  calling  attention  to  his 
idiosyncrasies.  She  noted  that  he  was  endowed  with  “sparkling 
intellect”  but  burdened  with  an  “unconcealed  egotism.”  She, 
however,  softened  the  blow  by  adding  :  “Deep  underneath  this 
hard  crust  of  intellect  is  concealed  an  under-current  of  love 
flowing  from  a  heart.  Someone  may  have  tasted  it,  but  the 
waters  of  the  spring  are  not  accessible  to  all”.  The  translation 
that  has  been  handed  down  to  us  does  poor  justice  to  the 
original.  Has  it  not  been  said  thatone  has  to  translate  Cicero  to 
despise  him? 

Lilavati  Munshi’s  literary  talents  are  revealed  in  all  their 
amplitude  in  her  works,  which  include  a  historical  novel  called 

19-473  M.  of  I &B/ND/81. 

The  Man 


Kumaradevi,  character  sketches  and  essays  on  a  wide  variety 
of  subjects.  Munshi  regarded  her  as  much  more  than  a  wife. 
She  was  his  inspirer,  comrade  and  the  staff  of  his  life  for  full 
forty-five  years,  the  two  merging  into  each  other  as  avibhakta 
atma  or  undivided  soul.  Besides,  making  a  notable  contribution 
to  Gujarati  literature,  Mrs.  Munshi  fully  participated  in  a  number 
of  cultural,  social  and  literary  activities.  She  was  a  member  of 
the  Bombay  Legislative  Assembly  from  1936  to  1952  and  later 
moved  on  to  the  Rajya  Sabha  where  she  made  her  mark 
through  her  studied  speeches  on  important  national  issues.  She 
was  a  tower  of  strength  to  her  husband  in  his  multifarious 
activities.  He  owed  his  success  as  Union  Food  Minister  not  a 
little  to  her  since  she  laboured  most  indefatigably 
to  popularise  noncereal  foods  as  a  means  of  tiding  over  the 
national  food  crisis.  She  was  only  second  to  him  in  building  up 
the  Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan  into  a  great  national  and  international 
cultural  organisation.  She  died  on  January  6,  1978,  at  the  age 
of  seventy-nine. 

Munshi’s  indebtedness  to  the  three  women  who  influenced 
his  life  is  best  stated  in  his  own  words.  He  wrote:  “My  life 
would  not  have  been  what  it  was  and  is  without  the  three 
women  who  have  given  me  love  and  devotion  in  unbounded 
measure.  The  first  gave  me  birth  and  presided  over  my  life 
during  its  first  forty-nine  years  with  a  rare  wisdom.  The  second 
shared  my  early  years  of  struggle  and  success  with  a  unique 
self-surrender.  And  the  last  has  partnered  my  struggles  and 
achievements  with  a  spirit  of  unity  which  I  dreamt  of  in  fiction, 
but  little  hoped  to  realise  in  life.  In  giving  her  to  me,  God  fed  my 
hungry  soul  and  made  the  course  of  years  a  pilgrimage  of  joy. 
They  have,  each  in  her  own  way,  surrounded  me  with 
understanding  and  encouragement;  to  them  must  go  the  credit 
for  whatever  I  have  been  or  done”. 


K.  M.  Munshi 

There  were  also  others  who  profoundly  influenced  the 
course  of  Munshi’s  life.  The  virile  message  of  Swami  Dayanand 
Saras  wati,  founder  of  the  Arya  Samaj,  was  a  constant  source 
of  inspiration  to  him.  The  Swami  boldly  proclaimed  the 
paramountcy  of  the  Vedas  and  the  Upanishads  in  the  cultural 
and  spiritual  life  of  the  Hindus  and  called  upon  them  to  break 
the  shackles  of  superstition  and  meaningless  social  inhibitions 
and  strive  to  regain  the  greatness  of  their  Aryan  forebears.  It 
was  from  Dayanand  and  Sri  Aurobindo  that  Munshi  drew  the 
inspiration  to  work  for  the  restoration  to  the  country  its  early 
and  noble  traditions,  unsullied  by  ritual  and  dogma.  Aurobindo 
also  stimulated  in  him  a  passionate  urge  to  struggle  for  national 
liberation.  Munshi  was  also  attracted  towards  the  rationalism  of 
Bankim  Chandra  Chatterji,  a  towering  intellectual  of  his  time. 
The  celebrated  Bengali  novelist  also  roused  his  romantic 
imagination  “to  go  in  search  of  new  worlds”.  Not  only  leaders 
of  recent  times,  but  great  historical  figures,  especially  of  the 
Chalukyan  age,  inspired  and  illumined  his  attitude  to  life.  They 
were  Munjal,  Kak,  Khengar,  Ranak,  Manjari,  Chaula  and  Bada 
Maharaj,  who  brought  the  golden  age  to  Gujarat. 

Munshi  was  not  a  political  extremist,  while  he  made  no 
compromise  on  the  issue  of  national  freedom,  he  was  not 
prepared  to  turn  a  blind  eye  on  the  good  points  in  the  British 
Raj.  He  could  not  ignore  the  fact  that  the  ideas  of  democracy, 
nationalism  and  responsible  government  came  from  the  West 
through  Britain.  As  a  member  of  Dr.  Annie  Besant’s  All-India 
Home  Rule  League,  founded  in  September  1916,  he  worked 
for  the  country’s  freedom,  with  Jinnah  as  his  political  leader. 
With  Lokmanya  Tilak  associated  with  this  organisation,  it  could 
not  be  dismissed  as  a  hole  and  corner  body.  Munshi’s 
collaboration  with  Jinnah  could  not,  however,  last  long, 
especially  after  the  advent  of  Mahatma  Gandhi  to  national 
politics.  Before  the  parting  of  the  ways  came,  Jinnah  was  the 

The  Man 


hero  of  the  educated  classes  of  Western  India.  He  had  played 
no  small  part  in  bringing  the  Muslim  League  closer  to  the 
Congress.  When  he  eventually  became  a  cheerless  and  cold 
blooded  politician,  turning  his  back  on  everything  he  had  stood 
for  during  the  best  part  of  his  life,  Munshi  bade  a  final  good-bye 
to  him. 

Munshi  gladly  accepted  Gandhi’s  political  leadership 
because  he  saw  in  the  Mahatma  a  man  of  action  par 
excellence,  with  the  capacity  to  rouse  the  dormant  energies  of 
India’s  millions  and  harness  them  to  purposeful  action.  This  was 
not  a  small  asset  in  a  country  whose  people  were  not  only 
disarmed  but  demoralised.  Centuries  of  bondage  and  grinding 
poverty  had  inured  them  to  indifference  and  inaction.  There 
were  certainly  many  serious  grievances  against  the  foreign 
regime,  but  the  illiterate  masses  could  understand  only  those  that 
hurt  them  most.  Gandhi  proved  the  uniqueness  of  his  leadership 
by  winning  countrywide  support  even  for  local  and  relatively 
unimportant  grievances.  Whether  it  was  Kheda  Champaran  or 
Bardoli,  he  demonstrated  the  strength  of  mass  action. 

What  struck  Munshi  and  others  most  was  that,  although 
he  possessed  such  immense  strength,  Gandhi  was  perhaps  the 
mildest  among  men.  It  was  his  firm  conviction  that  virtue  should 
be  practised  for  its  own  sake  without  any  expectation  of 
reward.  This  stoical  idea  was  extraordinary  because  morality 
has  no  relevance  in  politics.  Munshi  was  further  drawn  towards 
Gandhi  because  he  could  see  that  the  Mahatma  had  purged  his 
heart  and  mind  of  all  hatred  and  anger.  In  his  eyes,  as  in  the 
eyes  of  most  Indians,  Gandhi  had  descended  on  the  Indian 
political  scene  as  a  new  Messiah. 

Nevertheless,  thanks  to  his  keen  perception  and  sense  of 
realism,  he  did  not  accept  every  policy  and  programme  of  the 
Mahatma  as  practicable  or  infallible.  He  had  strong  reservations 


K.  M.  Munshi 

on  non-violence  as  an  absolute  principle.  Its  unsuitability  was 
vividly  brought  home,  especially  in  periods  of  communal 
violence.  Munshi  was  not  prepared  to  appreciate  the  correctness 
of  the  Gandhian  prescription  that  the  Hindus  should  agree  to 
make  unlimited  sacrifices,  including  the  offer  of  their  lives  in 
millions,  in  order  to  dissuade  the  Muslim  communalists  from 
treading  the  path  of  separatism. 

Munshi’s  resignations  from  the  Congress  arose  entirely 
from  a  crisis  of  conscience  and  were  prompted  by  no  other 
consideration.  His  Akhand  Hindustan  campaign,  based  on  the 
assertion  that  the  entire  Indian  sub-continent  was  the  native  soil 
of  all  Indians,  irrespective  of  their  creedal  affiliations,  could  not 
possibly  be  conducted  by  him  as  a  member  of  the  Congress. 
When  vital  national  issues  were  at  stake,  he  did  not  number 
party  loyalty  among  the  ten  commandments. 

Whether  Munshi  was  in  the  Congress  party  or  out  of  it, 
the  ties  that  bound  him  to  the  Mahatma  remained  indissoluble. 
Gandhi  had  great  regard  for  the  younger  man  for  his  outstanding 
abilities  as  a  lawyer,  as  an  organiser  and  as  a  creative  writer. 
Even  on  non-political  subjects,  he  had  his  own  reservations 
about  Munshi’s  writings,  but  it  was  impossible  for  him  to 
withhold  his  admiration  for  the  boldness  and  the  fertility  of  the 
writer’s  imagination  and  the  superb  style  in  which  he  could 
clothe  it.  The  Mahatma  was  himself  a  distinguished  writer  of 
Gujarati  prose  and  he  could  readily  see  a  similar  merit  in  other’s 
works.  Munshi  has  written  a  good  deal  about  his  closeness  to 
Gandhi.  During  his  great  campaign  against  untouchability, 
Gandhi  received  much  valuable  material  from  Munshi  in  support 
of  his  cause  on  the  basis  of  scriptural  authority.  There  was 
indeed  nothing  formal  in  the  relations  between  the  two.  Munshi 
and  the  members  of  his  family  often  visited  the  Mahatma  and 
stayed  with  him  in  his  Ashram  at  Sabarmati.  When  Gandhi  went 

The  Man 


to  Bombay,  Munshi  was  among  his  frequent  visitors  and  often 
accompanied  him  in  his  morning  walks.  There  were  many 
occasions  when  Gandhi  gave  him  difficult  and  delicate 
assignments,  such  as  the  defence  of  some  eight  persons  in  the 
Princely  State  of  Ratlam  who  had  been  accused  of  seeking  to 
“overthrow  the  lawfully  established  government’ ’  of  the  Maharaja. 
Gandhi  showed  his  appreciation  of  Munshi’s  literary  talents  by 
writing  a  Foreword  to  the  latter’s  book  Gujarat  and  its 
Literature ,  published  in  1935. 

The  relations  between  Sardar  Patel  and  Munshi  were  as 
between  two  brothers.  A  shrewd  judge  of  men,  the  Sardar  had 
great  confidence  in  the  sagacity  of  the  younger  man.  Munshi 
admired  him  for  his  pragmatism,  for  his  superb  organising 
abilities  and  for  his  masterful  personality.  Long  association  and 
experience  had  convinced  him  that  the  Sardar  was  a  man  of  few 
words  but  of  mighty  deeds.  It  was  mostly  at  his  instance  that 
Munshi  was  given  important  work  in  the  Constituent  Assembly. 
Justice  N.  H.  Bhagwati  writes  about  the  two  thus:  “Sardar  as 
a  hard-headed  politician  and  a  patriot,  and  Munshi  as  a  student 
of  history  and  a  legatee  of  that  emotional  worship  of  the 
Motherland  which  he  inherited  from  his  early  association  with 
Sri  Aurobindo,  alike  realised  that  the  destiny  of  the  country  lay 
in  its  being  united  and  strong”. 

A  good  deal  of  mud  was  flung  by  political 
opportunists  at  both  the  Sardar  and  Munshi,  accusing  them 
of  communalism.  There  could  not  be  a  greater  falsehood  than 
this.  Such  a  calumny  was  circulated  against  them  because  they 
were  unsparing  in  their  exposure  of  narrow-mindedness  in 
others.  Munshi  was  close  for  decades  to  Jinnah,  the  future 
founder  of  Pakistan,  and  religion  played  no  part  in  their 
relationship.  A  Muslim  art  connoisseur,  Chandabhai  Muchhala 
by  name,  was  a  permanent  resident  in  the  Munshi  family  was 


K.  M.  Munshi 

treated  as  one  of  its  own  members  till  his  death.  Munshi’s 
robust  secularism  was  the  best  safeguard  against  his  lapsing  into 
intolerance.  Stating  categorically  that  Indian  culture  was  much 
more  than  Aryan  culture,  he  declared:  “We  cannot  repudiate  the 
Gandhara  art  because  of  Greek  influence.  We  cannot  disown 
the  Taj  Mahal  because  of  its  Islamic  inspiration.  We  cannot 
reject  the  art,  the  manners,  the  institutions,  which  Hindu- 
Muslim  adjustments  have  given  birth  to.  We  cannot  even  throw 
off  the  Western  influence  and  institutions  which  have  grown  into 
our  life”. 

Munshi  wrote  that  he  loved  his  profession  as 
a  lawyer.  He  had  every  reason  to  do  so.  He  had  gone  to 
Bombay  in  1907  in  utter  penury  and  four  years  later  joined  the 
Bar  there  when  it  abounded  in  legal  giants.  It  required  more 
than  ordinary  abilities  for  a  young  and  diffident  man  from  the 
mofussil  to  move  to  the  front  rank  in  a  highly  competitive 
profession.  He  was  able  to  achieve  this  feat  because  he  was 
endowed  with  superlative  intelligence,  to  which  he  harnessed 
enormous  industry.  He  was  subtle  and  agile  and  was  always 
thorough  with  his  briefs.  His  clients  had  complete  confidence  in 
his  capacity  to  do  full  justice  to  their  cause.  When  dealing  with 
highly,  complicated  cases,  he  sometimes  disappeared  from  his 
residence,  his  whereabouts  being  known  only  to  a  few,  in  order 
to  discover  in  a  calm  place  the  crucial  law  point  as  the 
foundation  for  his  argument.  His  wide  knowledge  of  law  was  of 
great  help  to  him  in  winning  the  cases.  He  built  up  an  extensive 
practice  and  made  large  sums  of  money  but  he  refused  to 
succumb  to  the  seductions  of  wealth  and  prosperity.  He 
engaged  himself  in  politics,  in  literature  and  in  many  other 
activities  with  the  same  zest  as  he  showed  in  the  pursuit  of  the 
legal  profession.  Even  so,  he  succeeded  in  winning  a  distinguished 
position  among  the  eminent  lawyers  of  India.  “His  work  at  law,” 
wrote  M.  C.  Setalvad,  “so  outstanding  and  distinguished,  would 

The  Man 


perhaps  have  been  far  greater  and  more  remarkable  if  his  prime 
loyalty  had  been  to  the  profession”. 

It  was  in  the  fitness  of  things  that  a  man  of  Munshi’s 
stature  as  a  lawyer  was  called  upon  to  play  an  active  part  in  the 
framing  of  free  India’s  constitution.  He  had  equipped  himself 
thoroughly  for  the  new  job  by  collecting  a  good  deal  of 
literature  on  the  systems  of  government  that  obtained  in  various 
countries.  It  was  Munshi’s  ardent  desire  that  the  system  of  the 
Indian  government  should  be  a  model  of  political  wisdom.  It 
was  not  sufficient  to  create  democratic  institutions,  but  provision 
should  be  made  for  ensuring  their  efficient  working.  Only  then 
would  the  promises  made  to  the  downcasts  and  the  outcasts  of 
society  be  redeemed.  He  was  a  firm  believer  in  the  well-tried 
doctrine  that  if  laws  were  good,  morals  would  be  good.  He  was 
also  convinced  that  only  an  honest  and  knowledgeable  citizen 
could  make  a  good  legislator.  By  adopting  a  highly  sophisticated 
system  of  government,  based  on  democracy,  India  had 
launched  a  bold  experiment  in  her  history.  He  wanted  it  to 
succeed.  This  is  the  reason  why  he  ceaselessly  advocated  a 
strong  Centre.  He  was  certainly  not  a  rabid  centralist  and 
wanted  that  the  constituent  states  should  enjoy  a  large  measure 
of  internal  autonomy,  but  he  advocated  the  investment  of 
decisive  powers  in  the  principal  government  as  a  safeguard 
against  internal  disruption  and  external  aggression.  He  also 
pleaded  that  the  President  of  the  Union  and  the  Governors  of 
States  should  not  be  treated  as  mere  ornamental  figures  but  as 
effective  functionaries.  With  the  people  not  inured  to  democratic 
principles  and  practices  and  in  the  absence  of  an  organised 
opposition  party  to  provide  an  alternative  government,  he 
feared  that  unchecked  parliamentary  authority  was  apt  to  lead 
to  undersirable  results.  He,  therefore,  urged  that  the  President 
at  the  Centre  and  the  Governors  in  the  States  should  be 
untrammelled  in  functioning  as  the  ultimate  authority  on  occasions 


K.  M.  Munshi 

when  their  intervention  was  considered  imperative  in  the 
national  interests. 

Munshi  gave  much  thought  to  the  language  question.  In 
this  polyglot  county  it  was  most  difficult  to  make  out  a  decisive 
case  on  behalf  of  any  language  as  the  principal  medium  of 
administration  and  communication.  After  a  good  deal  of 
reflection  and  after  prolonged  deliberations  with  fair-minded 
and  knowledgeable  persons,  he  came  to  the  conclusion  that 
Hindi  deserved  this  distinction.  Having  made  up  his  mind  about 
it,  he  became  its  most  eloquent  advocate.  He  was  equally 
anxious  that  the  regional  languages  must  be  fully  developed.  A 
great  writer  in  Gujarati,  it  was  impossible  for  him  to  adopt  any 
other  attitude.  He  also  believed  in  the  cultivation  of  English  as 
the  most  suitable  international  vehicle  of  thought  and  expression. 
There  were  many  discerning  Indians  who  held  similar  views, 
some  of  them  with  a  deeper  conviction.  For  instance,  C. 
Rajagopalachari  said:  “English  language  is  the  greatest  gift  of 
Goddess  Saraswati  to  India”.  Munshi  was,  however, 
uncompromising  on  the  question  of  developing  Indian  languages. 
He  had  seen  how  excessive  devotion  to  English  had  weaned 
many  Indians  from  their  mother  tongue  which  had  ceased  to  be 
their  “experienced”  language.  He  was  convinced  that  a  sound 
grounding  in  one’s  own  mother  tongue  was  necessary  for 
gaining  mastery  over  other  languages. 

Munshi  proved  his  mettle  as  an  administrator  both  in 
Bombay  and  in  New  Delhi.  H.  M.  Patel  has  recorded  the 
conversation  he  had  overheard  between  two  officials  when 
Munshi  was  the  Union  Minister  for  Food  and  Agriculture.  Then- 
talk  ran  thus  :  “What  is  it  that  makes  one  so  fond  of  Munshi? 
It  is  not  as  if  he  is  always  talking  sense”.  “But  even  when  he  is 
wrong,  and  persistent  in  his  wrong-headedness,  you  like  him. 
How  do  you  explain  that?”  Perhaps,  the  officials  did  not  discuss 
the  answers  or  Patel  did  not  pause  to  overhear  them  further. 

The  Man 


Munshi  was  liked  by  his  officials  because  he  did  not  throw  his 
weight  about  and  was  not  dogmatic  about  his  views.  He  knew 
how  difficult  it  was  to  administer  a  modem  State.  The  volume 
of  work  which  a  single  department  in  a  Ministry  has  to  transact 
is  so  vast  and  varied  that  only  those  equipped  with  specialised 
knowledge  and  training  can  deal  with  it  competently.  As 
Minister,  it  was  certainly  his  right  and  responsibility  to  lay  down 
policies  but  it  was  prudent  to  leave  their  execution  to  the 
officials.  He  believed  in  “remote  control”,  that  is  to  say  assume 
responsibility  for  the  general  direction  of  his  Ministry’s  affairs 
without  interfering  with  its  day-to-day  working.  He  reposed  full 
confidence  in  his  subordinates  and  readily  accepted  suggestions 
from  them  if  they  were  sound.  He  was  popular  with  them 
because  he  never  let  them  down,  taking  the  blame  upon  himself 
if  anything  went  wrong. 

Munshi  was  much  more  than  a  lawyer,  politician  or 
minister.  He  was  a  gifted  writer.  His  first  social  novel,  Verni 
Vasulat  (Revenge  Accomplished),  published  in  1913,  worked 
like  an  enchantment  on  the  Gujarati-reading  public.  Novels, 
social  and  historical,  short  plays,  essays  and  various  other  forms 
of  literature,  except  poetry,  flowed  ceaselessly  from  his  pen.  The 
source  of  his  inspiration  was  the  abundant  scriptural  and  secular 
literature  of  his  own  land  and  the  works  of  distinguished 
Western  writers.  Many  of  his  writings  have  been  translated  into 
English  and  into  a  number  of  Indian  languages.  An  outstanding 
feature  of  the  fiction  created  by  him  is  that  it  tells  the  story 
interestingly,  creates  plenty  of  dramatic  situations,  makes  the 
dialogue  gripping,  and  invests  the  characters  with  life  and  vigour. 
“I  have”,  he  says  with  remarkable  modesty,  “remained  first  and 
foremost  a  story-teller,  not  a  moralist”.  He  also  made  an 
outstanding  contribution  to  Gujarati  drama  by  pioneering  its 
rejuvenation.  He  wrote  a  good  deal  in  Eglish,  a  sizable  portion 
of  which  will  survive.  What  place  he  is  entitled  to  in  the  kingdom 


K.  M.  Munshi 

of  Gujarati  letters  only  experts  can  say,  but,  from  all  accounts, 
it  is  distinguished  and  durable. 

Perhaps,  Munshi’s  most  outstanding  contribution  to  the 
cultural  renaissance  of  India  is  the  founding  of  the  Bharatiya 
Vidya  Bhavan  in  November  1938.  He  considered  it  necessary 
to  establish  this  institution  so  that  India’s  ancient  learning,  sacred 
as  well  as  secular,  which  had  welded  the  diverse  elements  of  the 
Indian  population  into  a  single  community,  should  not  be 
allowed  to  languish  or  suffer  eventual  extinction.  He  wanted  to 
revitalize  this  heritage  by  bringing  it  into  close  alliance  with 
modern  knowledge.  His  bold  conception,  stimulated  by  his 
gifted  wife,  Lilavati,  and  its  brilliant  execution  have  won  for  him 
grateful  thanks  from  Indians  of  all  classes  and  from  eminent 
foreigners.  In  recent  years,  there  has  been  a  rapid  expansion  of 
the  Bhavan’ s  activities,  both  inside  the  country  and  abroad. 

Nehru  and  Munshi  had  many  shared  views  except  that 
they  differed  occasionally  in  politics.  The  Prime  Minister  was 
greatly  pleased  with  Munshi’s  labours  in  the  cause  of  the 
country’s  cultural  revival.  “During  these  few  years”,  he  wrote, 
“the  Bhavan  had  served  Indian  culture  with  ability  and 
perseverance  and  has  made  truly  remarkable  progress  in  many 
aspects  of  Indian  culture.  The  Bhavan’s  past  record  gives 
assurance  that  this  progess  will  continue  in  the  future  also,  and 
the  Bhavan  will  create  fresh  records  in  the  service  of  India’s 
culture”.  He  added  that  it  was  “a  very  fine  institution”.  The 
Prime  Minister  took  keen  and  sustained  interest  in  the  Bhavan’s 
activities,  visited  its  headquarters  in  Bombay  and  inaugurated  its 
Delhi  branch  in  1957. 

Munshi  was  widely  respected  and  admired  for  his 
versatility  and  varied  achievements.  India’s  first  President,  Dr. 
Rajendra  Prasad,  declared  :  “I  would  say  that  I  bow  to  him  for 
his  versatility”.  C.  Rajagopalachari,  who  regarded  munshi  as  his 

The  Man 


younger  brother,  invariably  stayed  with  him  when  he  visited 
Bombay.  In  a  brief  message  on  the  occasion  of  the  seventy-fifth 
birthday  of  younger  man,  he  recalled  Munshi ’s  “wonderful, 
unique,  dynamic  personality”  and  his  “services  in  the  cause  of 
Indian  culture,  Indian  freedom,  and  good  administration”. 
Striking  a  personal  note,  C.  R.  said  :  “He  has  been  a  most 
affectionate  and  tolerant  friend  to  me  personally”. 

Munshi  was  an  extremely  lovable  person.  He  was 
certainly  proud  of  his  achievements  but  he  never  boasted  about 
them.  He  could  not  stomach  empty-headed  and  pretentious 
fellows,  but  he  avoided  rudeness  while  telling  them  off.  Having 
himself  suffered  the  pangs  of  penury  in  his  early  years,  he  never 
forgot  the  anguish  of  the  hungry  and  the  destitute.  He  was  a 
shrewd  judge  of  men  and  was  always  willing  to  listen  to  the 
other  man’s  point  of  view.  His  health  was  not  robust,  but  even 
in  the  penultimate  stage  of  his  earthly  existence  his  mental 
faculties  remained  as  sharp  as  before.  His  interest  in  the 
numerous  institutions  he  had  built  up  never  flagged,  the 
Bharatiya  Vidya  Bhavan  always  claiming  his  first  attention.  He 
had  no  money  when  he  started  it,  but  he  was  a  firm  believer  in 
the  dictum  that  good  and  great  causes  would  not  suffer  for  want 
of  resources.  He  never  stretched  his  hand  in  vain  for  donations. 

The  Bhavan  today  has  developed  like  a  mighty  banyan 
tree,  with  its  branches  spreading  in  all  directions.  It  has  set  out 
to  carry  India’s  hoary  message  of  peace  and  tolerance  to  the 
four  comers  of  the  world.  Munshi  was  a  multifarious  man  who 
enriched  many  departments  of  India’s  national  life,  but  the 
Bhavan  will  remain  the  finest  and  the  most  durable  monument  to 
his  memory.  He  passed  away  on  February  8,  1971,  when  he 
had  just  entered  his  eighty-fourth  year.  He  had  no  overweening 
political  ambitions;  ministership  was  only  an  interlude  in  a  busy 
and  varied  life.  His  achievements  in  the  field  of  culture  and 
literature  are  so  massive  and  towering  that  his  name  will  live. 


Si  I. 

19,  ••  !  i«n  i1. 


■  )  • 


K.M. MUNSHI  was  a  frontline  freedom  fighter,  closely 
involved  with  the  Indian  national  movement.  This  book 
explores  Munshi's  engagement  with  the  Indian  national 
movement.  It  also  delves  into  the  context  that  preceded 
the  mass  movement  during  the  freedom  struggle  of  India. 

Based  on  a  variety  of  sources,  the  contributors  attempt  to 
historicize  a  nationalist  icon.  In  the  process,  the  reader  is 
presented  with  a  holistic  picture  of  a  leading  nationalist 
personality,  including  his  contradictions  and  ambiguities. 
In  this  sense,  the  different  contributions  in  this  book 
question  the  'received  wisdom'  associated  with  Munshi. 

This  book  would  be  of  use  to  those  interested  in  the 
Indian  national  movement  and  the  manner  in  which  it 
intersected  with  a  range  of  social,  cultural  arid  political 

issues.  The  'non-specialist'  reader,  too,  will  be  interested 


in  the  way  in  which  the  book  makes  both  Munshi  and  his 
context  accessible. 


Price  :  ^  205.00 

El  ISBN  978-81-230-1917-8 
|J  BMI-ENG-REP-01 3-2014-1 5